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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Hundreds of children in NI paediatric units receive sensory toys thanks to local charity

Pictured are (L-R) Glens of Antrim Potatoes MD Michael McKillop; Antrim Area Hospital Play Specialist Francis Lagan; and NICLT Chairman Colin Barkley.

The Northern Ireland Children to Lapland Trust (NICLT) has partnered with eight NI companies to provide children’s hospital units with much-needed gifts

A drive to deliver much-needed sensory toys and equipment to paediatric units across the province has been deemed a success by NI charity, the Northern Ireland Children to Lapland Trust (NICLT).

The scheme included eight paediatric units and the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice, and was created by NICLT Trustee Dr Mark Rollins to support children living with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions and who spend a lot of their precious time in hospital and/or hospice settings.

The idea came about as a result of the pandemic, which prevented the charity from carrying out its traditional annual flight to Lapland, which has been creating memories for children with challenging conditions for the past 12 years.

A number of leading Northern Ireland businesses are corporate partners of the Northern Ireland Children to Lapland Trust. Their ongoing financial support allowed the charity to present approximately £1,000 worth of sensory toys and equipment to their respective paediatric units.

Among those corporate partners were The Bushmills Inn (Causeway Hospital), Glens of Antrim Potatoes (Antrim Area Hospital), C-Tec (NI) in Newry (Daisy Hill Hospital), Hagan Homes (NI Children’s Hospice), Wineflair (Craigavon Hospital), Barclay Communications (The Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children), CosyRoof (Altnagelvin Area Hospital) and Bells Crossgar Motors (Ulster Hospital).

The charity was also delighted to be able to make a similar donation to the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen.

Dr Mark Rollins, a senior consultant paediatrician at Causeway Hospital, NICLT trustee and founder of the hospital gifting scheme, explains:

“This is a unique charity drive that allowed paediatric units around Northern Ireland to benefit from the most suitable sensory toys and equipment for their respective environments.

“These gifts will make a difference to children, carers and health teams who know full well the challenges they face daily.

“We are truly grateful for the very generous donations from the charity’s corporate partners in this scheme. They are among some of NI’s most esteemed companies and some of them have experienced one of their most trying times in business during the pandemic, but they haven’t allowed that to get in the way of their generosity.”

Speaking about the impact the inaugural gift delivery had on children in the hospital, Peter Johnston, Paediatric Lead Nurses, Paediatric Department, Antrim Area Hospital said:

“These sensory toys have a hugely positive impact on the experience of a child with a life limiting or life-threatening condition in the hospital environment. This allows children to relax and play as all children should during what can be a very stressful time.”

Michael McKillop, Director, Glens of Antrim Potatoes, who has supported the charity since 2013 and who donated to the initiative said:

“Glens of Antrim Potatoes as a business wanted to work with a local charity and the NI Children to Lapland and Days to Remember Trust was a perfect fit, to give sick children and their families a Christmas gift they would remember and hopefully bring a bit of joy at this special time of year.”

The charity’s annual Lapland trip with 100 local children with life threatening or life limiting conditions had to be cancelled because of the covid pandemic.

Instead, the charity raised funds to give 110 local children, who were nominated by the eight paediatric departments and the NI Children’s Hospice, a new experience, including a detailed personal letter from Santa, a video from the man himself from his grotto in Lapland, a visit from Santa and his elves as well as a gift to the value of £200, all received in the safety of their own homes.

Northern Ireland Children to Lapland and Days to Remember Trust has also recently welcomed three new high profile ambassadors to the charity.

Former Ulster, Ireland and British and Irish Lions rugby ace Tommy Bowe, Ireland’s number one country singing star Nathan Carter and Northern Ireland Women’s Football Team captain, Marissa Callaghan have signed up to be advocates for the charity.

If you would like to find out more about The Northern Ireland Children to Lapland Trust or to make a donation check out


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