Ireland international James McClean took time out of his pre-match preparations in Georgia to donate €3,000 to help a 17-month-old toddler battling eye cancer, writes Stephen Barry.
McClean has previously donated thousands of pounds to families in Derry and across Ireland to fund operations or help at times of tragedy.
This year alone he has donated to crowdfunding appeals for a three-year-old’s heart transplant, for another three-year-old’s life-changing operation, to buy a caravan for a pregnant homeless woman, and to aid the search for a missing Derry man.
And that’s just what we know about – and not even to mention his support for community organisations.
So, it was no surprise but equally touching to hear of his generous donation to Caleb Williamson in his fight against an aggressive eye cancer.
Since he was three days old, the youngster has been travelling from Derry to Dublin’s Temple Street Hospital every three weeks for examinations under anaesthetic. Aged nine weeks, he was diagnosed with Retinablastoma, a rare form of cancer that rapidly develops from the immature cells of a retina.
He began six rounds of chemotherapy a week later in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital, but got sepsis from his central line after his first round and almost died. Despite the sickness and 20 aggressive tumours, Caleb finished his course of chemotherapy on October 25 and laser treatment has kept the condition under control since then.
However, a dramatic turn has led to Caleb being referred to a specialised treatment centre in Switzerland to stop the tumours spreading from his optic nerve to his brain.
Parents appeal for help as Northern Ireland tot with eye cancer forced to go to Switzerland for vital treatmentSeptember 1, 2017
The cost of treatment is funded by the NHS but the costs of flights to Switzerland every fortnight, accommodation and household bills are mounting, leading to a JustGiving page being set up with a £1,000 target.
But after an interview with Caleb’s mother Jacqueline was published, McClean donated £3,000, three times their target.
“I couldn't believe it when I saw it,” Jacqueline told the Belfast Telegraph. “I was completely and totally lost for words and in total shock. It's just amazing that someone could help us like that.
“I kept looking at the JustGiving page in the morning when the story went out. And then, at lunchtime I saw James McClean's name and this figure. I didn't believe it was happening. He will never know how much this means to us. It will make such a massive difference to us.”
Jacqueline emailed her thanks to McClean's wife Erin.
“To be honest I struggled to find the words. It was emotional and I didn't know what to say. I told her that I could never thank James and her enough, and that it was amazing what they did for our family.
“Erin emailed me back to say that her and James just wanted to help out, that she hoped that it helped with the travelling costs. She said my Caleb was ‘a dote’ and that no little baby deserves to go through what he went through.”