Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Rugby star Rory Best in support of GAA Blitz for Lauren fundraiser

 by Diarmúid Pepper

Rugby star Rory Best will be taking time out from his busy schedule to show his support for Newry teenager Lauren Fitzgerald at Páirc Esler this Saturday, 15th June.

Lauren is a student at Sacred Heart Grammar in Newry and The Examiner spoke to her teacher Treasa Davey ahead of The ‘Best’ Big Blitz fundraising event for Lauren on Saturday.

Ms Davey explained the circumstances of why the event is being organised: “Around this time last year, Lauren was in school and she had a pain in her side and went home sick. It was the last week of school in June, and by the third of July she had been diagnosed with stage 4 high risk neuroblastoma.

 “It is a very rare, aggressive and complex cancer. It usually affects children under five and it is a very difficult cancer to treat. Lauren has been through extensive treatments throughout the year and the last stage of the treatment is immunotherapy. When we come to the end of the immunotherapy treatment, we have no other treatment here in the UK or Ireland for Lauren.”

 This has spurred Lauren’s school and family to come together to raise the funds needed for her to go to New York to access a vaccine that could reduce the risk of relapse. 

Ms Davey said: “There is nothing available here but there is a vaccine available on trial in New York. Lauren and her family are fundraising in association with ‘Solving Kids’ Cancer’. They need to raise £234,000 to enable Lauren to go to New York to access this vaccine that is showing promise in trial stages.”

 It has been all hands on deck within the Sacred Heart as the school does their utmost to come to Lauren’s aid.

“The ‘Best’ Big Blitz is our contribution as a school. We felt that we wanted to arrange a positive event that involved Lauren’s peer group and raised awareness of the illness and Lauren’s campaign.  So we extended an invitation to all of the schools in Newry and Mourne as well as to the GAA clubs in Down and south Armagh to participate in the blitz. It is a Year 10 blitz, but it is a family day.”

The Blitz will begin at 9:45am, and 300 children from across 30 teams will be taking part. Sacred Heart pupil Aoife Trainor, an All-Ireland Scór winner of 2019, will begin proceedings by singing the national anthem. 

And when the blitz gets down to the wire during the finals, Ulster and Ireland hero Rory Best will be in attendance to give encouragement to the children who are taking part.

  “Rory Best will be there to do the throw-in, talk to the kids and present a medal to every single child,” Ms Davey revealed.

 When asked how they were able to secure the presence of rugby legend Rory Best, she said a lot of it has to do with a moving video about Lauren’s journey. 

 “There is a four minute video on YouTube that tells Lauren’s story. If you watch that, you understand how someone would be moved to act. Rory Best was sent this video, and as soon as he saw it he said he absolutely wanted to come on board to help. 

 “He is a family man and he was very eager to become involved. We are delighted because he is a role model to so many young kids, particularly given his approach to life and his and sporting career. 

 “He has spoken motivationally to a number of people and we are delighted that he is able to come along and talk to the kids at The ‘Best’ Big Blitz for Lauren. As a dad as well, it must have been important for him to support other families who are going through difficult times.”

 It has been hard work organising such a big event, but the teacher says that generosity is what Sacred Heart is all about. 

 She told The Examiner: “Sacred Heart is known as the ‘Green Family’. When you come in as a first year, you hear about the Green Family. And Lauren is one of ours and everybody is pulling their weight and doing whatever they can to support the Fitzgerald family. Our school ethos is about service to others and putting others first and that is certainly what everybody is doing at the moment.”

For more information and to find out how you can help, visit “Lauren’s Adventures” on Facebook you can also text to donate: LAURENF and your amount to 70085.