Mum-of-three Gillian Adams from Armoy was just 42 when she lost her fight against bowel cancer four years ago.
She had been diagnosed with the illness just seven months previously and according to sisters-in-law Adele and Cynthia Elder, her deep faith in God sustained her throughout her cancer battle.
“Gillian was a quiet, lovely girl,” says Cynthia. “People always say that but in this case it’s absolutely the truth. She was lovely and since her diagnosis she really held onto her faith in God. She stayed positive and never showed a down moment to any of us. It was a big shock for our family when Gillian passed away, leaving her husband John and their three sons. It was heartbreaking. But we’ll never forget her.”
“Gillian was very much a family girl,” says Adele. “She very much lived for her three boys, Jonathan, Jordan and Sam. She worked in the office of the family haulage business. Gillian didn’t like a lot of fuss and excitement, she liked to be in her own corner.
“It was a huge shock when she was diagnosed - the worst thing that has happened to our family. When she became very poorly she turned to God and this gave her great inner strength. She attended the Church of God in Ballymoney. She was saved. She thought she would be healed but it wasn’t to be. Losing her was very difficult.”
Following Gillian’s death Adele and Cynthia decided they wanted to do something to help other cancer sufferers in her memory and together they started the Gillian Adams Angel Foundation.
“When she died we wanted to give something back to the community as the care that Gillian received from the local nurses was second to none. So we got together with her district nurse and after a discussion with her we learned of the real struggles and hardship that this deadly disease can bring to a family,” said Cynthia.
“We heard about families who couldn’t afford to turn the heating on because they had to give up work after being diagnosed with cancer. Some of them were really struggling with food and to get dinners made. It was difficult for them to keep the house clean and keep the usual daily routines going.
“We wanted to find a way to reach out to these families and find a way to make life easier for them - for us it became a positive way of remembering Gillian.”
The Gillian Adams Angel Foundation, based in Stranocum, helps those with cancer and their families by providing vouchers for food, electricity, and gas among other necessities, as well as offering family fun days and opportunities for pampering at a local spa.
Adele and Cynthia are keenly aware of how cancer can plunge many families into a range of practical and financial difficulties; many have to give up work following a diagnosis and daily family life can be massively disrupted; hardship is often the consequence of battling the disease.
The foundation offers £100 vouchers for groceries at Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Spar; heating vouchers at a value of £100 for oil, coal or gas; vouchers for McAtamney’s Butchers for £100 for ready-made meals; vouchers for Perfections Day Spa in Coleraine for a massage, facial and other treatments; and family fun day vouchers also worth £100.
The charity currently helps families throughout the Causeway Coast and Glens area by referral through their GP surgery; this is not means tested and all applications are totally confidential.
Adele continued:“Since September 2015, we have received fantastic support and donations, as well as holding very successful fundraising events, but the rise in people being diagnosed with cancer means there is a high demand for vouchers. To date we have helped almost 300 local families. We have also contributed financially to the MacMillian Unit in Antrim in helping them afford their own chaplin - that was important to us because Gillian held tight to her faith and was very involved in her church in Ballymoney - and we buy gifts, games, craft items and vouchers for children at the Royal Victoria Hospital every Christmas. To allow us to keep this service going in our community we have to constantly fundraise. All the money that we raise goes to our local families. That leads us to our next fundraiser - a colour run.”
After last year’s hugely successful event, which raised a whopping £10,000 and saw runners splashed in every colour of the rainbow, the charity will be encouraging people to cover themselves in pink, blue, purple, yellow and red holi powders before taking part in a five mile run on Saturday June 8.
The run begins at 12.30pm outside Stranocum Community Centre and will lead onto the Ballykenver Road, through the famous Dark Hedges used in Game of Thrones, then passing along the Ballinlea Road and back to Stranocum village for a foam party courtesy of Triangle Castles and a celebratory glass of bubbles.
“You can run, walk or crawl the distance - whatever you want to do!” says Cynthia.
Adele adds: “The run will start in the field with a warm-up session and some zumba, then the holi colours will be thrown up in the air and all over participants. We’ll also be throwing colours at them while they’re running. It will finish in the field with a foam party, so not only will you get to drink a wee celebratory glass of bubbles when you finish the run, you can also get covered in them! We are so excited for this event. For the more competitive runners we have men’s and ladies’ cups for first and second back to field.
“Everyone else will get a colour run medal though and it will just be great craic. It will be fun. Cynthia and I will be throwing colours over everyone.
“Gillian would be very proud of us, I think. She would be pleased with all of this. We’re just very passionate about helping our local community.”
Each runner/walker will be supplied with a T-shirt and a goodie bag upon registering.
The charity are thankful for the sponsorship they have received to date from Chestnutt Feeds, Dark Hedges Estate, Dennison Commericals, Mark Kilgore Accountants, JSC Builders, CML Construction, Steph’s Plaice, Adams Transport, Tescos and Fresh to the Door.
l It is £15 to register for the Gillian Adams Angel Foundation Colour Run on June 8. Visit the Facebook page and PM the charity or call Adele on 07921 395026 or Cynthia on 07856 582 869.