Brave children get an early taste of Christmas

CHRISTMAS may still be two weeks away, but Cork children bravely overcoming serious medical and social problems were given an early seasonal treat yesterday as a special visitor came to town.

As part of the Cork City Hospitals’ Children’s Club’s now annual Christmas at Fota experience, dozens of kids receiving support from hospitals and voluntary groups saw their dreams come true during a rare meeting with Santa Claus.

Saint Nicholas is still putting the final touches to making his list and checking it twice.

But that didn’t stop him giving young children from Cork University Hospital (CUH), the Mercy University Hospital (MUH), the Cork Deaf Association and domestic violence support group Edel House well-deserved treats to reward their bravery.

Surrounded by cartoon characters like Snow White, Tigger, The Snowman and Mickey and Minnie Mouse, 40 children were given garda escorts through the city yesterday as they travelled to Fota House near Cobh to meet Father Christmas.

The visit to the Georgian mansion was made all the more special for those who had the chance to be chauffeured to the site in limousines, garda escorts and dancer Michael Flatley’s vintage cars.

These included a mint-condition Rolls Royce, a Hummer and two limousines which the star generously donated for the occasion.

In the first part of the two-day event, which will end this evening, children from the Cork Deaf Association and CUH — including children battling cancer and those adapting to limb amputations — had the chance to meet Santa Claus.

During the visit they received a special personalised gift from the man himself and a framed photograph provided by the Irish Examiner.

Cork’s best known “little fighters,” Benhaffaf twins Hassan and Hussein, also benefited from the day, having spent time at CUH and the connected maternity hospital.

The group’s chairman John Looney said children receiving care and support at MUH and St Gabriel’s special school will also have the chance today to meet Father Christmas before he returns to the North Pole.

Among Santa’s helpers during the occasion were doctors, nurses and other staff from CUH and MUH, senior gardaí in Cork and other volunteers.

The Cork City Hospitals Children’s Club was established in 1997 and provides events for about 240 children in medical or social difficulties every year.

* Donations to the group, all of which is spent entirely on services for children, can be made at:

Bank of Ireland, Wilton, Co Cork, sort code 90-28-05, account number 34653800

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