Friday 19 January 2018

Brave Liam (4) inspires new respite centre

Liam Heffernan (right), with Miriam O’Callaghan (left) and his mum Mary.
Liam Heffernan (right), with Miriam O’Callaghan (left) and his mum Mary.
Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

HE IS the inspiration behind it, but little Liam Heffernan may not live long enough to see his legacy open.

The four-year-old was the centre of attention as the sod was turned on 'Liam's Lodge' – Ireland's first national respite centre for children with rare diseases – in Blennerville, Co Kerry, yesterday.

Liam suffers from Batten Disease, a rare and fatal disorder that claimed the life of his sister Saoirse (5) in January 2011. Now his parents, Tony and Mary, face losing their second child to the same disease.

Despite their heartbreak, they've poured their energy into Bee for Battens, The Saoirse Foundation, the charity they set up when their daughter was first diagnosed. Yesterday, a major milestone was reached with the official turning of the sod of 'Liam's Lodge' by broadcaster Miriam O'Callaghan and Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan.

"I am forever humbled and amazed at the extraordinary courage and the work that parents have to put into looking after their adored children, but when a child has a special problem and a serious illness, it is 24/7, and the one thing they all say is they never get a break and Liam's Lodge will give them that," said Ms O'Callaghan.

"It's a wonderful idea and that's why I really think people should support this. Hopefully, Liam will get to see this open, but it's against the odds for him to survive more than 12 to 18 months," his dad Tony said.

The Heffernans hope to welcome the first families to Liam's Lodge in 2015, but they need to raise €4.5m to make this happen. The charity is also appealing to tradesmen to get behind it to reduce costs. See www.liamslodge.com for details.

Irish Independent

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