Hassan and Hussein, dressed in matching red outfits, were a picture of contentment as their mother Angie spoke to themedia prior to a bike run organised by the Rebel Riders Motorcycle Club, which got under way shortly after 1pm yesterday at the Two Mile Inn pub inMidleton, Co Cork.
Angie Benhaffaf was visibly moved by the large turn-out for the race from Midleton to Dungarvan and expressed her gratitude for the outpouring of generosity she has received from the public since her boys were born in December.
“It is overwhelming. It is lovely. It is amazing. It shows that everyone in the country is behind the boys and that it is all very positive. It is so genuine. We are totally overwhelmed as a family.”
Angie and her Algerian-born husband Azzedine posed for photographs with tiny Hassan and Hussein, along with the couple’s other children, Malika, 4, and Iman, 2, and thanked the public for their support.
The bike run was organised by the twins’ uncle, Jason Keating, who is a member of the Rebel Riders club. The funds raised will help towards expenses that will be incurred later this year when the boys are in London to undergo surgery to separate them.
Mr Keating said he was thrilled with the turn-out. He praised the numerous sporting associations in Ireland and Britain which have donated jerseys and signed pictures in aid of the twins.
“Alex Ferguson sent over signed shirts for the boys and we also got Liverpool signed shirts, Aston Villa, Stoke City, Ipswich, we have a Munster rugby jersey as well. They will all be auctioned on the 25th of this month.”
DJs from Cork’s Red FM led out the run with the assistance of Declan O’Donovan from Two Wheel Training.
Deputy Lord Mayor of Cork Laura McGonigle was also riding passenger on one of the bikes and said she was honoured to take part in the event.
“I am delighted to be part of this. I think a special tribute should go to the Rebel Riders as well, who are always very good for raising funds for charity. In true Cork spirit people did not leave us down.”
The twins were born at University College Hospital in London in December. They are based back home in Carrigtwohill, Co Cork.
Leading the surgical team for their separation later this year is Cork-born paediatric surgeon, Edward Kiely. Great Ormond Street Hospital is the most experienced centre in Europe for the separation of conjoined twins, with the teams having dealt with 21 separations and nine inoperable cases to date.
Crucially, the two boys are understood not to share any major organs and surgeons are planning for the separation procedure once the pair get stronger.
The care of the twins is shared between CUMH and Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.
* The Little Fighters account is at the Permanent TSB’s Patrick Street branch: sort code 99-07-03 and account no: 16556196.