How a Christmas kindness led to life-changing home makeover for brave Kate and her family

Volunteers put the final touches on the Flynns' renovated home. Picture: Larry Cummins

A simple act of Christmas kindness has led to a life-changing home makeover for the family of a brave little girl.

Kate Flynn’s parents, Mark and Lisa, were overcome with joy last night as they were presented with the keys to their home, which has been completely adapted to suit Kate’s medical needs.

“This will be our best ever Christmas,” an emotional Lisa said as hundreds gathered in Rushbrooke, Cobh, Co Cork, to celebrate.

“Last Christmas we had a lot of worries as Kate’s condition deteriorated. The banks had turned us down and we had no hope of modifying our home. But little did we know that our luck and our lives would change. We will be forever grateful for the immense kindness shown to us as a family. It really has been life-changing for us.”

Kate, aged four, was born with a rare genetic depletion which affects her breathing. She is dependent on a ventilator and needs a lot of medical equipment and supplies.

Kate O’Flynn with brothers Alex and Adam, parents Lisa and Mark, and Patrick O’Brien from Sigma Homes. Picture: Gavin Browne

She spent the first two years of her life in hospital before finally getting to spend Christmas at home last year with her parents, and her brothers, Adam, aged nine, and Alex, six.

But Lisa said their narrow three-storey house was unsuited to Kate’s needs. The family tried desperately to source funding to adapt their home but their loan applications were turned down.

Kate Flynn Handover Video from David Casey on Vimeo.

“This time last year, I had severe depression, I had lost all hope of securing a more suitable home for Kate and the boys,” Lisa said. “I had lost all hope. I felt I was failing my family, that I wasn’t able to provide the safe home my children needed. We were desperate.”

However, their lives changed for the better when Mark helped a stranger last Christmas. A day or two later, a listener to Neil Prendeville’s show on RedFM phoned to thank Mark for helping after they missed their Santavisit inthe shop he works in. Lisa spoke on air about his caring nature before revealing their own personal struggles.

Kate O’Flynn in her new bedroom with brothers Alex and Adam. Picture: Gavin Browne

Sigma Homes project manager David Holmes heard their moving story and discussed it with company boss Patrick O’Brien.

“Given the variety of projects we have worked with in Cork we felt we might be able to help,” Mr O’Brien said.

They drew up ambitious plans to completely redesign the house — plans costed at €140,000 — but, with help from subcontractors and suppliers, they secured massive savings. A fundraising drive raised €80,000 and building work started four months ago. The finished home was handed back to the family last night.

Kate has living quarters, complete with an en suite wetroom, on the first floor, with a large glazed window view and a door to the back garden.

The house now has an open-plan living space with direct access to the garden, and internal windows linking the family space to Kate’s room, so that even when she is resting in bed, she can still feel part of family life.

Mark said: “People said this couldn’t be done. But we have done the impossible.

They Flynns got the good news about their home in Rushbrooke, Cobh, Co Cork, just in time for Christmas. Picture: Larry Cummins

“The support we got was incredible. This will be life-changing for the family. Everyone involved should be so proud. We’ve all come out of the recession a little less greedy and with bigger, stronger hearts.”

Lisa issued an emotional thank-you to all who helped: “We are just so, so grateful. I am happy again and our children will have a suitable home. When you have a sick child like Kate, with complex medical needs, you do appreciate the little things, like being together for Christmas in your own home.”


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