IT was great weather...for ducks!
However the rain didn’t put a dampener on a Portstewart parent and baby group’s pram push last Saturday morning.
More than 50 parents, carers and children (and two dogs) donned their waterproofs to take part in the sponsored Pramble to the Prom to raise vital funds for the Bubble Foundation which has supported a Portstewart family after their little boy underwent a bone marrow transplant.
Eleven-month-old Oscar McLaughlin, who will celebrate his first birthday next Tuesday (May 1), was diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) in December 2011 – a condition which affects the immune system.
The rare disorder, also known as the ‘bubble boy’disease, made Oscar extremely vulnerable to infection and for months he was kept in a bubble-like sterile environment to avoid catching life-threatening diseases or infections.
On December 28, at just seven months old, Oscar was airlifted from Belfast to the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle Upon Tyne which specialises in treating the disorder. He underwent a bone marrow transplant on February 13 with cells taken from a donated umbilical cord.
Throughout his treatment in Newcastle, Oscar and his parents, Olivia and Pearse, have relied heavily on the Bubble Foundation which have given the family tremendous support.
Before his illness, Oscar and his mum frequently attended Baby Zone, a parent and baby group held in Portstewart Baptist Church every Friday afternoon from 2-3pm).
Shocked and saddened at the news, the Baby Zone gang decided to organise a pram push to raise funds for the charity which has become so vital to the family.
Speaking at the event Oscar’s grandmothers, Marie McLaughlin and Dolores Hughes, who came along to officially start the walk, said they were amazed at the huge generosity of the local community.
Dolores explained: “The whole event has been absolutely great and we cannot thank everyone enough for their support and commitment. Coming out in such bad weather just shows how much people care.
“Oscar is doing very well now and he’s in a half way house which is teaching Olivia and Pearse how to feed him and give him his medication. Oscar still visits the hospital every two weeks to have blood tests however we are hoping to get him home by June.
“It’s heartbreaking to think that he would never have survived if he’d not had the transplant. And it’s thanks to a new mother donating her umbilical cord from which the hospital was able to take the cells and give them to Oscar. Something that would have been incinerated saved his life.”
Marie continued: “Oscar really is a very special little boy and he’s never looked behind him. To think that he’s going to celebrate his first birthday soon truly is a milestone. He has been through so much in his little life.
“He was never a sick baby nor in and out of hospital however when Olivia started weaning him from breastfeeding, so she could go back to work, that’s when all the problems began. It was Olivia’s immune system from the breastmilk which was keeping Oscar well.”
A superb £680 has so far been collected thanks to the Pramble. While Morelli’s To Go also held ‘An Hour for Oscar’ donating all money that Saturday between 4pm and 5pm – an unbelievable £203.77 in sales and another £71.28 in donations were collected!
Karen from Baby Zone explained: “We would all just like to thank everyone who supported our Pramble on such a wet day. The walk took over an hour and wasn’t easy, one of the mothers even had a burst tyre, however everyone made it back in one piece!
“Massive thanks go to those who took part in the walk, those who made the refreshments for the thirsty and hungry walkers and to Oscar’s grandmothers and other family members who came along - everyone made the morning such a success.
“Special thanks also go to Samantha and Nicole Morelli from ‘Morelli’s To Go’ for donating all the money taken from 4pm to 5pm that day.
“Amazingly we have raised over £955 and money is still coming in. This amount has taken Oscar’s fundraising well over their target of £5,000 which really is something to be proud of.”
In an email Olivia added: “Sounds like it was a great turn out and you had a great response. Honestly peoples’ generosity has just been amazing.
“Pearse and I are so touched with everyone’s kindness. We cannot wait to get back to Portstewart and although Oscar won’t be able to attend the Friday Baby Zone afternoon group I will definitely be there to see you all.”
Finally, huge appreciation goes to Portstewart Baptist Church for the use of their venue and facilities.
* Anyone who would like to donate to the Bubble Foundation can do so through Oscar McLaughlin’s Bubble page on the Justgiving.com website. On it they have already raised £4,572.50.