Natalie Barr. INLM0811-110gc
Natalie Barr. INLM0811-110gc

‘KEEPING the light lit,’ - the words Natalie Barr believes her late sister Charlene may have said had she heard her sister was to carry the Olympic Torch.

Lurgan hockey player Natalie is one of the few selected to carry the Olympic Torch through Ballygalley on June 3 this year.

Proud father Dr Dickie Barr believes it is symbolic that 19-year-old Natalie is to carry the torch.

He believes Natalie has been chosen not just for her sporting achievements - she has played for Ulster and Ireland, captaining both at U16 and U18 as well as bringing her old school Lurgan College to Ulster and All Ireland titles - but also for helping to carry on the charity work her sister Charlene started in Africa,

Charlene, who died just a year and a half ago, worked tirelessly to build a school in Uganda, despite suffering from the crippling illness Cystic Fibrosis. Plus she raised enough to build a well for the entire Ugandan village as well as accommodation for teachers.

And now Charlene has passed that torch to the Barr family with Natalie literally to carry the Olympic torch and the family working on building a second school.

Her father, who revealed that they are to go to Uganda in June to find a location for the school, said: “She has now passed the torch on to the rest of the family to carry.”

He recalled Charlene’s blog in which she said: “I really do feel like this is the right school to be starting my project with and I pray to God that it will be the first school of many that the Charlene Project has helped to contribute towards.”

Asked what Charlene may have said about her sister carrying the Olympic torch, Natalie said: “I think she would tell me to keep the light lit which is what we are trying to do by building a second school. Also she would wind me up and tell me not to fall and if I managed that she would treat me to a Starbucks after.”

Natalie, who is training as a teacher at Stranmillis, said: “As a family we so want to continue carrying the torch for Charlene in Uganda and feel this very symbolic.”

In nominating her, Martin Montgomery said: “I am delighted that Natalie gets to experience the excitement of such a worldwide event in such a personal way, and I really hope she enjoys every minute. However, I could have nominated any one of the Barrs to do this - even Janice!

“To be serious though, they all are truly inspirational in how they have dealt with the death of such a precious member of their family - in darkness they have united to shine the brightest light - a light which is transforming lives in Uganda through education and clean water, and which is changing lives in Northern Ireland as they bear witness to a God who does not forsake those He loves.’

Natalie is hoping that everyone who has spare hockey sticks, guards, gym clothes, etc could donate them.

Her dad, Dr Barr said: “It needs to be reasonable good stuff that we can take out.”

He explained that they are hoping to collect the gear and send it out so it is there when Natalie arrives to do her coaching.

All hockey gear can be dropped into Buttered Up in Windsor Avenue, Lurgan.