'Incredible' €460,000 floods in for rugby star Billy's children's fund
Munster and Ireland rugby player Billy Holland and his wife Lanlih have been overwhelmed by the success of their appeal to raise funds for two hospitals and the Ronald McDonald House.
They made it in memory of their late daughter Emmeline - and almost five times its target of €100,000 was pledged in just 36 hours.
The couple launched their 'Brave Like Emmeline Holland' fund to raise urgently needed money for Crumlin Children's Hospital, the Cork University Hospital Children's Unit and the Ronald McDonald House.
They set a target of €100,000 for the GoFundMe campaign, with a golf classic at Adare and an auction of rugby memorabilia to be held separately in the future.
Their GoFundMe Appeal -supported by a special Sunday Independent interview and an appearance on RTE's The Late Late Show - has led to a flood of donations.
Last night, it was on course to raise €500,000, with more than 13,000 people having made pledges.
"It has been incredible," Billy said. "They are such great causes and we wanted to do something for them to say thank you for all they did for us and for Emmeline."
Lanlih said they wanted to show their support for other parents with sick children who are going through the same roller-coaster of emotion, hope and despair they endured.
Emmeline was born in November 2018 with complex medical issues.
The brave little girl battled her conditions - and at one point looked as if she would recover sufficiently to undergo the ops vital to her survival.
Sadly, she fell ill last May and despite the best efforts of doctors to stabilise her condition, she died cradled in her mother's arms on May 18 last year - one day short of her six-month birthday.
Such was the turmoil of the previous months Billy considered quitting his rugby career.
Lanlih insisted he keep playing, to help protect their privacy with Emmeline and maintain their family income.
"She was such a wonderful little girl," Lanlih said.
"She was always smiling, always happy, no matter the number of medical procedures she had to go through, no matter the number of needles and tubes she had to endure.
"It was absolutely devastating losing her.
"She passed away just when it seemed as if she was getting stronger, getting bigger and being able to undergo the heart procedures and surgeries that she needed."
The couple - who married in 2017 having been college sweethearts - said they enjoyed astonishing support from Crumlin Children's Hospital, CUH Children's Unit and the Ronald McDonald House in Dublin.
They wanted to offer practical support in Emmeline's memory to all those who had helped them.