It was an emotional moment for Lurgan mum Silean Kelly when she finally got to meet the man who had raised over £10,000 for her daughter.
Silean, whose daughter Eva suffers from a severe form of brittle bone disease, was moved to tears as former Portadown man John Foy handed over the cheque on behalf of the citizens of Fort McMurray in Canada.
John, who has lived in Canada for the past 36 years, was in Portadown for his annual visit to his family - his parents Rita and Tommy live locally - and he used the opportunity to meet Silean, her husband Sean and two-year-old Eva.
Said Silean, “It’s phenomenal. It’s hard to believe that people who don’t know you would raise this amount of money.”
John had read about Eva’s condition on the Portadown Times website in May and pledged to raise 10,000 dollars by June 30.
Married to Gail and the father of two teenage boys, John has considerable fundraising experience, having founded the Kids Forever charity in 1998 which has raised more than $6 million and helped over 200 families in his home city.
True to his word, in 30 days he not only reached the target but doubled it - raising a total of 20,137 dollars (£10,659.05).
He said, “Over 50 per cent of the money was donated by my co-workers and contractors at Syncrude Canada and the rest came from friends and local businesses.
“All I had to do was send them the story about Eva and the money just started to flow in. We like to think of ourselves as a city with the biggest hearts.”
Eva, who lives in Lurgan, has one of the most severe forms of the disease, and in her first year of life broke 50 bones. She cannot crawl or sit unaided and will probably have to use a wheelchair.
One of her favourite things is reading, and Eva was all smiles as John gave her a book, written by a friend whose teenage son was killed in a road accident, with the proceeds of sales going to charity.
Silean, a paediatric nurse who has taken a career break to care for her daughter, said, “We are going to put the money in a trust fund for Eva. At this stage, services for Eva are good and she is provided for but when she gets older, there is a noticeable difference.
“Wheelchairs can cost thousands and she may want to put some of the money towards that or even use it to go to university.”
Although the families may have met online, it wasn’t long before they discovered a local connection, with John’s parents remembering Silean’s grandparents, Bridie and the late Paddy Duffy, who were from Mary Street in the town.