The founders of Hope House Ireland are Roy and Dawn McConnell who have been married for over 30 years and have one daughter Leah.
In February 1990, at the age of 34, Roy was given the news that he had non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and was given a 30 per cent survival rate. After a year-and-a-half of chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and much prayer, Roy amazed the doctors when he fully recovered. He was clear for 21 years.
In February 2012 the couple once again were devastated to receive the news that the cancer had returned. They would have to start the journey of chemotherapy again. A year later they were thrilled to learn that Roy was clear of cancer once again and was able to return to work.
Then in 2015 Dawn was diagnosed with cancer…
A personal word from Dawn:
Getting a cancer diagnosis is devastating not only to the person receiving it, but also immediate family. The whole landscape of your life totally changes as visits to the hospital for treatment and checkups take over your life and a lot of people are unable to travel too far because of the sickness, and being stuck at home 24hrs a day can add a lot of stress to your situation. Experience has taught us, one of the best things to do is to be able to remove yourself from the normal everyday life routines. A break, even for a few days, can be truly valuable in recovery. In fact research shows that our surroundings can have a profound effect on the immune system function and our sense of well-being.
Many times during Roy’s treatment we would have loved a break but with our disposable income decreasing significantly after Roy’s diagnosis this was impossible. It was at this time some wonderful people provided an apartment by the sea, free of any charge, for us to use. This really did help us to cope with the very stressful situation we found ourselves in. It was wonderful being by the sea and looking out at the beautiful views and it really did help us to cope physically and mentally. It was a wee lighthouse of HOPE, a place of refuge in the midst of the dark storm that had hit our lives. It was during this time that I got the vision for Hope House. I did some research to see if there was anyone providing a free holiday break for older Adults and I discovered if you had a child that was sick you could have a break at Daisy Lodge in Newcastle and if you were a teenager there was help through Clic Sargent but there was nothing for older Adults. I also became aware of how many people have to travel long distances to the hospital for treatments and having to leave home extremely early to beat the traffic in the mornings.
With all of this in mind we decided to start the charity in October 2013 and began to raise funds so we could rent an apartment by the sea where those going through cancer could rest and recuperate, free of any charge and also to benefit anyone travelling long distances. We chose the apartment on Whitehead promenade because of the beautiful sea-view and walks. We began renting it in March 2014. The apartment is only a 5 minute walk from the train station that provides a train that leaves guests at the entrance of the City hospital which is approximately 14 miles from Whitehead – this has proved very successful to patients who do not like to drive long distances and also means they can come and stay the night before their appointments.
TeamHOPE seeks to help in any way we can shining that light of HOPE in the midst of the darkness that surrounds a cancer diagnosis. Since we opened the door of HOPE the responses we have received from our guests have confirmed how important it is to continue with this work.
In 2015 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and had to have a Mastectomy and 6 months of chemo. It was a hard blow to deal with as we had only just got HOPE House up and running, and I wondered how I was going to be able to carry on the work. I am so thankful to my family and the wonderful team of people who help me with the running of HOPE House. They helped me to stay focused and, because of them and the tremendous support of our loyal volunteers and fund-raisers the Lighthouse is still standing after the storm. I am through all the chemo and now clear of cancer and more determined and better equipped than ever, to help people Stand Up To Cancer.
On behalf of Team HOPE, a great big ‘Thank You’ to everyone who has supported us on this journey. Without each one of you, we could not have got this far. We have been given the wonderful opportunity to buy the apartment we are renting at this present time in Whitehead. If you would be interested in helping us with fundraising to enable us to achieve this, we would be delighted to hear from you. You can also support us by becoming a monthly sponsor or make a one-of donation on our website through Paypal, Just Giving or Bank Transfers.
Feel free to contact us, I would love to hear from you!