“BEFORE I came to Phoenix I wasn’t really a very nice person - my aggression, my anger overtook everything. Then I got introduced to Phoenix and over the year or so I have been here I have learned so much. I would just like to thank Phoenix for what they have done to my life because I am a completely different person from what I was then.”
Those were the moving words of a 14-year-old Coleraine lad by the name of Adam whose life, like so many, was turned around by local ADHD charity, The Phoenix Project, which this week was awarded £1/2 million by the Big Lottery Fund to continue its good work.
And as Phoenix prepared to begin the next four years with secure funding, the charity movingly announced the establishment of a memorial cup for young achievers, given in honour of one of their former members, Angie Young (47), who tragically passed away in May.
The Phoenix Project, which provides support to parents and sufferers of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, announced receipt of the funding at a special ceremony in their Ballycastle Road premises on Friday evening when Big Lottery Northern Ireland representative, Joanne McDowal, handed over a cheque for £499,911 as part of the Empowering Young People Programme.
Under the programme and with the aid of Lottery funds, Phoenix plans to spend the next four years mentoring 8 to 20-year-olds with ADHD “to enable them to remain in mainstream education and equip them with the life skills that will ensure that they achieve their full potential.”
Speaking at the event last Friday Project Manager, Kaye Cormack, thanked The Big Lottery for the their support and revealed her own personal experiences of ADHD and its effects on young people like her son.
Kaye explained: “ADHD is thought to be the result of a chemical imbalance affecting the part of the brain responsible for controlling attention, concentration and impulsivity and can cause significant difficulties with academic achievement, self esteem, social skills and emotional behaviour. Research indicates that with early diagnosis, intervention and specialised support these challenges can be overcome.
“Phoenix ADHD Project therefore aims to provide this support ensuring that each young person with ADHD is given the opportunity to achieve their full potential.”
After introducing the project staff, management board members and volunteers, who she said were a very important part of the team without whom the project could not function, she thanked the management board, who are also volunteers, as well as the parents and carers who continue to support the team at fund raising events.
The main focus of the evening, however, was the presentation ceremony which saw all children and young people who attend the project, awarded with a medal and Phoenix hoodie acknowledging their progress.
A special award “The Angie Young Achievement Award” was presented by Maria Rankin, Angie’s mother, to one of those young people, nine-year-old Jamie O’Neill, from Portstewart, for his achievements throughout the past year.
Phoenix Activities’ Co-ordinator, Bryan Moore, explained: “This award is in memory of Angie Young, who became a director of Phoenix ADHD Project in September 2009. Sadly Angie passed away on May 25.
“During her time Angie worked tirelessly raising funds, assisting in the office and supporting some programmes for the young people and will never be forgotten.”
In the presence of so many of Angie’s family, Kaye then read a few moving words from the former director’s brother, David Rankin, who was unable to attend in person.
He said: “On behalf of the Rankin family we wish to thank Kaye and everyone at Phoenix for creating the Angie Young Achievement Award. Angie would be thrilled - and humbled - that her name is attached to such an award.
“Despite having a very busy life Angie was devoted to the aims of Phoenix and of providing the necessary support for young people with ADHD. Of course it was an issue very close to home for her and she strove always to understand the condition and seek ways of learning more about it.
“As a family we wish to thank everyone here who supported Angie during her short time here - she was such a loving and giving person, a great mum, daughter and sister who always put herself before anyone else.
“We all miss her terribly. So we believe it is fitting that this award and plaque will formally recognise her contribution to Phoenix’s ongoing work,” he added.
There were more moving words when two of the young people who attend the Phoenix ADHD Project spoke briefly about how the charity had helped them cope with the challenges they face as a result of their condition such as learning about how to make “positive choices”, “coping with anger” issues, “improving their confidence” and “making friends with others” who have similar problems.
A parent and a carer also praised the support they had received from the project, highlighting the positive impact which the children and parents’ support groups have had on their entire family units. Parents who have not yet attended the project’s ‘Parenting Plus’ sessions were encouraged to attend.
Kaye finished by thanking everyone who came along to support the evening and invited them to stay for a buffet meal which had very kindly been donated by Paul McCafferty of the Belfry Deli in Coleraine.