Tuesday 20 March 2018

'He had something special', says Batman Ben's mum as she vows to keep raising funds for sick children

The late 'Batman' Ben Farrell with is mother, Valerie. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
The late 'Batman' Ben Farrell with is mother, Valerie. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

The family of 'Batman' Ben Farrell is determined to keep raising money for sick children, despite the fact Ben lost his own battle with cancer last August at the age of five.

Ben captured the hearts of the nation when the appeal went out to raise vital funds to take him to America for treatment in the hope of saving his life.

Ben did to go to the States, but his illness had progressed too far.

Speaking from her Finglas home, Ben's mother Val has told of their heartbreak, their pride in their superhero son, and their quest to keep raising funds for others.

"Ben had something special. I knew it even before he got sick. He just captivated people. He got people, he was able to read them, and he had such a sense of fun and adventure," she said.

"He went surfing at Curracloe in Wexford when he was four, and his instructor said he was the bravest pupil he had met.

"He used to be into Fireman Sam, and then that changed to Batman when he saw the old 1960s originals on Netflix.

"He loved that he was a superhero and fighting crime and saving the world. He loved police and gardai and all that stuff, so in the end the name stuck. Batman Ben," she added, as Ben's little brother Jack (2) played on the floor behind her.

All around the house there are photographs of Ben and Jack. Photographs of Ben when he was well, and after he got sick. He beams from them all, especially the ones where he is dressed up as Batman.

Ben's ashes are in a neat white box in the living room, very much part of the family and the daily life of those who love him and those he loved.

"We have good days and bad days. There are days we are so proud of Ben and the way he handled everything so bravely, and then there are days it hits us," said Val.

"We sometimes wonder if we could have done anything differently, if we could have done more. I look at the clock and I think it would be time to bring Ben to school, or time to pick him up. The school times are hard.

"Then watching the seasons change is hard too. You see time moving on. Spring, summer, autumn and winter, but all you want is for time to stand still and Ben to be with us, doing the things that parents do.

"I would swap places with Ben in a heartbeat. I would take all his pain for him to be here. I think any mother would.

"When I think back, I don't know where we got the will to do the fundraising. I knew we needed to go to America and, when we got all the quotes, we realised it was going to cost €250,000. I couldn't believe there was a price on my son's life.

"We didn't have it, but everyone was so kind and so generous. We couldn't believe from how far and wide the help came, but a lot of that was down to Ben being Ben, and the character he was.

"Time was not on our side. Ben was very sick, but everyone was brilliant and made it happen. We are so grateful for all the help, and how quick it came.

"When we told Ben we would have to go to America he looked on it like it was an adventure. He asked could we go to Toys R Us and of course we had to say yes," she added.

"He seemed to take his illness in his stride. It was like he was showing us how it should be done. As long as everything was explained to him, he would be grand.

"He didn't like needles, but after his chemo he would have to get an injection with a GCSF pen every night to bring his white cells up again before the next bout of therapy.

"But every night he would give himself that jab. We would hold his leg for him and he would put the pen to it and click the button. He was the one controlling it.

"Of course he would get to do it to his daddy then afterwards and he really enjoyed doing that, except there would be no medicine in the pen, just the needle."

Val has posted a message on the Ben 'Batman' Farrell Facebook page to thank the public for their ongoing generosity and to say how they will continue to raise funds for others.

"We did the Hell And Back challenge last year just four weeks after Ben passed. We were just imagining how much he would have enjoyed seeing us do it," she said.

"We laughed throughout it. We never believed we could have laughed so soon after Ben died, but he would have enjoyed it so much."

Val and her husband Alan, as well as Ben's teacher Danielle Keegan, will be doing the event again this year in Bray on June 17, and are seeking more volunteers to join in.

"The charities we have chosen to raise funds for are very close to our hearts, and we will do the Hell And Back again for the Gavin Glynn Foundation and Laura Lynn Children's Hospice," said Val.

Since September, €12,000 has been raised in Ben's memory. For further information go to the Ben 'Batman' Farrell Facebook page.


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