A county Armagh councillor will be hosting her annual coffee morning in memory of beloved son Jake who passed two days after his second birthday in 2013.
Julie Flaherty, now an Ulster Unionist councillor in Portadown, and her family have been running ‘Jake’s Coffee Morning’ since he was born back in 2011.
“My mother and father, Ted and Lorraine Hunniford decided to run a little fundraiser in September 2011 following my son Jake’s first run of surgeries after he was born,” Julie explained.
Jake was born on May 19, 2011 and was diagnosed as having Downs Syndrome shortly afterwards.
“This came with a lot of complications in Jake’s case, the first of which was diagnosis at three-weeks-old of cardiac failure due to a complex heart defect,” she continued.
Jake fought through a lot of difficulties, Hirschsprungs Disease, and a lung and breathing disorder but on May 21, 2013, just two days after his second birthday, Jake lost his fight for life.
“Children’s Heartbeat Trust were great supporting us from the outset, and still do to this day,” said Julie.
“It was actually the campaign to retain Children’s Heart Surgery in Belfast that sparked my interest in local politics.
“I am an accidental Councillor. I blame Jake for that; the fight for that service on an ‘all-island’ basis now continues to this day.
“Both Children’s Heartbeat Trust and The Downs Syndrome Association NI do great work locally so we decided as a family after the loss of Jake to continue with our Annual fundraiser on Country Comes to Town Day (September 16) in the Masonic Hall, Thomas Street Portadown (kindly granted by the committee).”
She added: “It really is a great family day, coffee, tea, scones, tray bakes, soup and stew at lunch time, with face painting and activities for the children by the fabulous Jennie from local company Twinkle and Twist- all we ask for is a donation at the door.
“Last year we were able to pass the £12,000 raised mark, not bad since 2011 serving coffee.
“Our team of helpers are invaluable as is the support we have received over the years.
“We could not continue to do this without the support of the ladies (and gents) in the kitchen and the local businesses that support us every year with our ‘old school’ raffle!
“Please drop in during the day before you head down into Portadown to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Country Comes to Town Festival- it’s only a minutes walk.”
Julie concluded: “It’s a day I find very bittersweet now, but I love seeing everyone pop in, I love to see all the little ones we met during our time in hospital and all the lovely people we met along the way. It really does my heart good.”