A YOUNG Armagh woman has dedicated her Volunteer of the Year award to her late mother, who lost a brave battle with cancer two years ago.
Gráinne O’Neill admits that while she was delighted to have been recognised in this year’s council community awards, the occasion was “bittersweet”.
Since the death of her 54-year-old mother Anne in January 2014, Gráinne has gone to extraordinary lengths to help raise the profile of the fight against pancreatic cancer.
Over the past two years, the 23-year-old has taken part in numerous fundraising initiatives, and to date has raised over £40,000 for pancreatic cancer charities, which are particularly close to her heart.
Speaking to the Ulster Gazette, the devoted campaigner said she was “chuffed getting nominated, never mind winning”.
“There were 20 others nominated and I really thought I had no chance, but up came my name on the screen,” recalled Gráinne.
“When Siobhan McGarry (compere) called out my name, I could feel the emotion and I didn’t know whether to cry as I could feel the tears coming, but then I had to walk up onto the stage.
“I feel really honoured and happy to have been nominated, never mind winning it.
“It was definitely a bittersweet night. Any time you get an achievement like that, I always would have been sharing it with mummy, but it was bittersweet as I know I wouldn’t have been standing there if she had been living.
“All my family and friends are proud and I’m proud of what the fund has achieved. It is a great opportunity for more awareness and to get the word out there.
“I’m delighted to be able to do that and my award would be in honour and in memory of mummy and that’s the reason I was there.”
A modest Gráinne who described her campaigning as a team effort, went on to praise everyone for their support, in helping make what she does achievable.
“It is really nice getting people coming to you suggesting ideas and it’s unbelievable and overwhelming the support that we received all the time.
“Tullysaran Runners are having a 5k and 10k race on Saturday, June 18 and they have chosen the Fight on for Annie charity, so I am looking forward to that.
“It’s all about raising awareness as you can’t put a price on the awareness. People need to know about the disease so we can get early detection.
“Some people shy away from talking about cancer and unfortunately it’s a massive part of society.
“It touches most families and this disease has been left behind for over 40 years and it’s just not acceptable.
“It is an individual award, but I see it as a group effort and I just want to keep the fight going for Annie.
“Mummy always told me I could achieve anything if I believed in it, and it is true.
“The last three years of my life I could never have predicted, but I am really glad that something positive has come from it, as it keeps her memory alive and keeps people talking about her and that for me is just priceless and helps me cope.
“Thank-you to everyone again for the continued support!” Gráinne added.