Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Joy as Lauren’s Adventures hits fundraising target

By Diarmúid Pepper

When 14-year-old Lauren Fitzgerald from Newry was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, her family scrambled for a solution. 

Neuroblastoma is an aggressive cancer which carries with it a high chance of relapse. 

A possible solution was soon established, in the form of a vaccine that is showing promise in reducing the chances of relapse. 

But the vaccine is eye-wateringly expensive and requires a journey to New York to access it.

All in, the cost of accessing the vaccine is £234,000. 

Lauren’s family took the decision to go public and to begin a fundraising campaign.

Last week, a mere 140 days into the campaign, the £234,000 target had been reached. 

“We are all thrilled that we have reached the target and so quickly,” Lauren’s mother Mary Clare told The Examiner.

“We are still amazed at all the people who organised events for us and who came to events and who donated online that are not even from the surrounding area. 

“We are overwhelmed with the response to the appeal and Lauren herself is doing really well at the minute and is hoping that she will get that clear scan in mid-September.”

Should Lauren get that all-important clear scan, her family now have the funds in place to access the Bivalent Vaccine clinical trial in New York.

At the outset, Mary Clare harboured fears that the campaign wouldn’t take off. 

However, those fears were quickly allayed. Mary said: “When the campaign started, almost instantly, people were fundraising as soon as they heard. It was great to see.

“We never expected to be in this position, with the amount fundraised and in so short a time span,” revealed Mary Clare. 

“We originally thought that that in September we would need to rejuvenate the campaign. Our thinking was that over the summer months, when a lot of people are away, that it would tail off and that we would relaunch it in September and see what we could do.

“But that hasn’t happened and we never expected to be in this position that we are in today.”

Lauren’s family, as Mary Clare is quick to note, are in this position due to the unwavering generosity of those who have been touched by Lauren’s story. 

“There was always the possibility that we wouldn’t reach our target and that there wouldn’t be a big response to the campaign. But so many individuals took it upon themselves to organise events and the local schools, particularly Sacred Heart Grammar School, were so helpful to us.

“We had sporting events, coffee mornings, a music fest, jigs and reels, quizzes and raffles, which were all individuals who wanted to do something to help Lauren. 

“A lot of those people don’t know our family or don’t know Lauren but they said that they identified with Lauren being a 13-year-old in the local community and they could imagine it happening in their family. Lauren went from being well one day to being diagnosed with cancer the next day.”

The fundraising efforts by the local community means that Mary Clare and her family can now “take the time to concentrate on getting Lauren as strong as possible in order to finish her treatment”. 

There is still a long way to go however, as Mary Clare explained.

“Lauren is still having immune-therapy and that doesn’t finish until mid-September. When she finishes her treatment she will have a series of scans. 

“Those scans have to be clear in order to get on to the trial in New York. So if we get a clear scan we would hope to go to New York at the end of October or the start of November.

“It’s a very aggressive cancer and we have seen a lot of children relapse in the UK recently. We are just hoping, fingers crossed, that the treatment will work for Lauren and that she will be clear in the middle of September.”

Mary Clare stressed her thanks and gratitude to everyone who helped raise money and awareness of Lauren and her campaign.

“We would like to extend our deepest thanks to everyone who helped us along the way. 

“From those tireless individuals who organised events, to those who came to the events and fundraisers, to everyone who gave money, and also to everyone who shared Lauren’s story online and in person to raise awareness. 

“It’s a team effort and everybody played their part in getting us to this goal so quickly.”