Saturday 3 December 2016

Little fighters' family overwhelmed by flood of support

RALPH RIEGEL and OLIVIA KELLEHER

Published 08/03/2010 | 05:00

Twins Hassan and Hussein are photographed with mum Angie Benhaffaf and their sisters, Iman and Malika.
Twins Hassan and Hussein are photographed with mum Angie Benhaffaf and their sisters, Iman and Malika.

THE family of conjoined twins, who turned down an €80,000 photo offer from a British tabloid newspaper, are set to receive vastly more than that amount thanks to the overwhelming generosity of Irish charity supporters.

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Angie and Azzedine Benhaffaf, from east Cork, last night said they had been overwhelmed by fundraising donations and events over the past three months.

These have ranged from a special cookery exhibition by Clodagh McKenna to a table-quiz and a charity bike run in Cork yesterday.

The 'two little fighters' -- Hassan and Hussein -- slept in their mother's arms yesterday, blissfully unaware of the 1,000 or so bikers who were preparing to undertake a charity race on their behalf.

Contentment

Dressed in matching red outfits, the twins were a picture of contentment as their mother Angie spoke to the media prior to the bike run, organised by the Rebel Riders Motorcycle Club, which got under way shortly after 1pm yesterday at the Two Mile Inn pub in Midleton, Co Cork.

Angie was visibly moved by the large turnout for the race from Midleton to Dungarvan. She expressed gratitude for the huge outpouring of generosity since her boys were born in December.

"It is overwhelming. It is lovely. It is amazing. It shows that everyone in the country is behind the boys and that it is all very positive. It is so genuine.

"We are totally overwhelmed as a family."

The bike run was organised by the twins' uncle, Jason Keating, a member of the Rebel Riders motorcycle club.

The funds raised will help to meet the expenses that will be incurred later this year when the boys travel to London to undergo surgery to separate them.

Angie and Benhaffaf last night said a substantial portion of the fundraising was triggered by the news that Angie had turned down an €80,000 offer from a British tabloid newspaper for exclusive photo rights to the children.

"We were really shocked by the force of the bidding war that went on among the papers," Angie said. "We may be broke but we are morally rich," she added.

The couple decided to offer their story -- and family photos -- to all newspapers and TV stations for free.

Their appearance on 'The Late Late Show' triggered a flood of support nationwide -- and dozens of fundraising events.

Angie is keeping track of every message of support, fundraising event and gift so they can be logged in a book for the twins to review in later life.

"When the boys look back on it they will be proud we did not accept money for their story," she added.

Anyone wishing to donate to The Little Fighters' Fund can send a donation to the Permanent TSB branch in Patrick Street, Cork: sort code 99-07-03; a/c no: 16556196.

Irish Independent

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