The Belfast Giants joined forces with CLIC Sargent to break ground on the construction work of Northern Ireland’s first specialist 'Home from Home' for families of teenagers and young people undergoing cancer treatment at the Belfast City Hospital.
Adam O’Keefe from the Belfast Giants said: "I am delighted to be out today to help start the construction of a new home for teenagers and young people with cancer in support of CLIC Sargent's Northern Ireland Homes from Home Appeal!
"The Home from Home will be provided to families free of charge and offers them the ability to remain close to their child while they undergo treatment as well as the chance to maintain a sense of a normal family life by keeping the whole family together."
John James Fisher, age 17 was supported by CLIC Sargent Northern Ireland when diagnosed with Acute Leukemia in 2011 and joined the Belfast Giants today to celebrate the launch of the new 'Home from Home'.
John James said: "Having a 'Home from Home' for teenagers and young people in Northern Ireland will make a massive difference to families dealing with cancer.
"I live in Newcastle in County Down, which meant a round trip of 65 miles every day for my family to visit me while I went through my cancer treatment – the travel caused a lot of stress for my family and made me feel even worse.
"It will really help families like mine to have the option to stay close to the hospital to cut costs and take the worry out of thinking you can’t get to the hospital quickly if you need to."
In Northern Ireland, a family dealing with childhood cancer can face an average round trip of 95miles, several times per week in order to receive a cancer treatment and spend an additional £360 per month. Costs will include travel, fuel, meals and accommodation. The CLIC Sargent ‘Homes from Home’ Appeal aims reduce these costs.
Located within walking distance of the hospital, the house has been designed with the families and their circumstances in mind. It will accommodate four families with en suite bathrooms, communal living and kitchen spaces, a quiet room and age appropriate space for games etc.
Construction and outfitting is expected to take up to a year, with the first families being able to use the house by the end of 2015.
CLIC Sargent Project Manager Roisin McKenna said: "It is fantastic to get the project off the ground. We’ve been working on the Northern Ireland Homes from Home concept for a number of years now and we are delighted to have opened Paul's House, a Home from Home for younger children at the start of 2014.
"Located directly opposite The Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, this facility is already proving to be a vital lifeline for families when their child is receiving cancer treatment. Paul’s House has had an 85 percentage occupancy rate since opening in January 2014."
In March 2012, CLIC Sargent launched a £3.7m appeal to develop two Homes from Home in Belfast. The Homes provide free accommodation for families’ just minutes away from each hospital.
They now urgently need to raise the remaining funds of less than half a million pounds, to build a second Home from Home, close to the Belfast City Hospital and Northern Ireland Cancer Centre.
Dr Tony Hopkins CBE, Chair of Ulster Garden Villages (UGV) said: "UGV was delighted to offer early funding to support the CLIC Sargent's 'Home from Home' Appeal and we wish all those involved every success with this much needed and very worthwhile project."