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Promotional image for the Irish Light it Up Gold campaign for childhood cancer awareness Photo by: LightItUpGold

Irish parents launch crusade to raise awareness for children battling cancer

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Promotional image for the Irish Light it Up Gold campaign for childhood cancer awareness Photo by: LightItUpGold

Dozens of Irish parents who have children with cancer have joined forces to follow a US initiative and turn Ireland gold for a whole week.

They want to light up as many notable Irish buildings and landmarks in gold for the first week in September to raise awareness about the country's young cancer sufferers.

Commitments to change colour have already been secured from a string of famous landmarks, including Dublin buildings The Mansion House, St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Conference Centre, The Firkin Crane in Cork and Galway's Eyre Square.

Leading businesses like Capita Life & Pensions have also signed up to the initiative, which is being run in conjunction with the Children's Medical Research Foundation (CMRF) to help raise badly-needed funds to replace the crumbling facilities in St. John's cancer ward in Crumlin Children's Hospital.

Ireland will not be the only country to turn gold, as charities from at least 15 other countries are also aiming to light up as many international landmarks as possible in September - which is childhood cancer awareness month.

Already on board for the huge global campaign are landmarks like the Niagara Falls and Boston sites Zakim Bridge, Atlantic Wharf and the Prudential Tower, while chiefs of the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada have also signed up.

But organisers of the Irish campaign - who represent children and families in treatment, those in remission and others who have lost their battle to cancer - want to see gold shining in as many places as possible across this country in September.

Antoinette Doyle, who is involved in the campaign, knows only too well why it's vital this campaign is a success.

The mother-of-four, from Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, lost her five-year-old son, Oisin, to a rare condition called Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukaemia, in January 2008 - just four months after he was diagnosed with the condition.

Her only daughter, Caitlin, seven, is currently receiving treatment for ALL leukaemia, a condition with difficulties related to her speech and ability to swallow.

Like the parents of the other 1,200 children who are treated every year in Crumlin's St. John's Ward, Antoinette has nothing but praise for the excellent staff.

But the parents are desperate to change the "substandard conditions" at the under-resourced cancer unit that their youngsters are forced to endure by raising as much money as possible.

She also spoke of the huge financial and emtional burden that parents are forced to endure, adding: "Usually one parent and sometimes both will have to give up their jobs to look after their child. It's very hard. It's important that as many buildings as possible sign up to this and that it becomes an annual event."

Another spokesman for the campaign said: "Since our children have no voice, we need to fight for them.

"Whilst survival rates have improved, we need to challenge the perception that childhood cancer is rare and curable and that little more needs to be done.

"Without awareness many hundreds of children in Ireland will be left to suffer through severe and toxic treatments, which can cause lifelong health issues.

"One in five will die within five years and depending on the type and stage of their cancer, they could have a much lower chance of survival.

"We believe children with cancer deserve to suffer less and survive more."

'Light It Up Gold' was started in the US last year by American father Tony Stoddard, after his twin son, Cole, died from cancer.

Initially aiming to get friends and family to wear gold - the colour that symbolizes childhood cancer awareness - to recognise his son's courageous battle against the killer disease, his dream has now grown into a worldwide ambition to see gold shining everywhere.

For more information on the Irish campaign, including fundraising details, email media@lightitupgold.ie. Their website, www.lightitupgold.ie, will be fully up-and-running next week.
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