Family fundraiser to mark tragic toddler’s coming of age

July 21, 2014

The family of a Cullyhanna toddler who tragically died as a result of meningitis 16 years ago is organising a special fundraising event to mark what would have been his 18th birthday.

Ciarán Caraher was the second youngest of seven children and just 22-months-old when he contracted meningitis in April 1998.  Within hours he was dead.  Since the loss of their son, Francis and Sheila Caraher have tirelessly fundraised for meningitis research, Daisy Hill A&E where Ciarán was treated, and to raise awareness of the condition.

Over the years they, together with the Ciarán Caraher Remembrance Fund group based in Cullyhanna, have raised more than £100,000.

Ciarán’s father, Francis, says the family’s fundraising efforts have helped them cope with their tragic loss and he expressed hope that by raising awareness of how quickly meningitis can strike, that parents of young children will become more aware of symptoms.

Speaking to the Examiner, Francis recalled how his young son first became ill and the speed at which his condition deteriorated.

“He wasn’t sick at all. His sister Blaithin had just turned six the day before and we had all been at a party at a neighbour’s house.  Ciarán was his usual self, running about and having fun and he only started to be unwell in the middle of the night.  He had cold hands and feet and then he started to get a high temperature and a rash. So the doctor took him into the clinic in Crossmaglen, then he went straight to Daisy Hill and was rushed to the Royal in Belfast.”

“It was all over within hours,” he said, his family were devastated that young Ciarán had been taken from them so quickly and with little warning.

“We didn’t know much about meningitis back then, except to check the rash with a tumbler. We were treating the high temperature with paracetamol, thinking he just had a bit of a fever.  We would know a lot more now as the awareness has been raised so much about it.

“The scary thing about it all was the speed at which meningitis took hold of Ciarán.  Even though parents know a lot more now, my advice would always be to take your child straight to hospital when you see a rash,” he warned.

“We feel that we lost time taking Ciarán to the local clinic who then had to call an ambulance to take him to Daisy Hill.  It took the ambulance such a long time to get here and back to Newry that we lost precious time while the meningitis was spreading.  I often think if we had taken him straight to the hospital ourselves, could we have saved him?”

Francis revealed that Ciarán’s untimely death has had a lasting effect on his brothers and sisters, who have all been heavily involved in the family’s fundraising efforts over the years.  Two of Ciarán’s brothers have been committedly growing their hair over the last few months in preparation for having it shaved off at the upcoming fundraising night.

Francis explained that this latest fundraiser is particularly poignant for the entire family as it marks what would have been Ciarán’s 18th birthday – an important milestone they felt deserved some recognition as well as helping to continue their fundraising efforts.

“We decided it was important to do something to mark Ciarán’s 18th.  Just like parents everywhere would celebrate their child turning 18, we wanted to somehow do the same and use it as an occasion to raise more funding for research and awareness of this terrible illness,” he said.

As Ciarán’s coming of age approaches, the Caraher family will host a number of fundraising events to mark his special birthday.

On Saturday 9th August, a 10km charity walk will commence at 12noon from St. Patrick’s GFC in Cullyhanna.  Registration will take place from 11.30am and everyone is encouraged to take part in this family-orientated event.

Later that evening, a head and beard-shave fundraiser will be held in the Clarnagh Maid, Crossmaglen, in conjunction with the South Armagh Fundraising Committee where three local volunteers will encounter a close shave to help boost the fundraising efforts.

Entertainment on the night will feature karaoke provided by DJ Marbello, supported by a mystery guest.

Sponsor cards will be in circulation around the area and all donations to this worthy cause are deeply appreciated.

Follow details of the events on the Ciarán Caraher 18 Years On Facebook page.  Anyone wishing to help out with either event, please contact Francis on 086 88 33 841 or Maria on 30868789 or The Clarnagh Maid on 30 868 324.