Antrim Gaels have been set an unusual festive target for Christmas 2018. They have been challenged to beat their own record of providing more than 1,000 shoeboxes filled with thoughtful gifts for those in need in their local community.
The challenge was set at the launch of #SaffronAid3, an initiative started by Antrim GAA PRO, Sean Kelly in 2016, which encourages GAA fans across County Antrim to fill shoeboxes with useful items for vulnerable families and individuals, which will then be distributed by St Vincent de Paul in Northern Ireland (SVP) in the run up to Christmas.
For some families in Northern Ireland, the fast-approaching festive season is something to dread rather than celebrate, with many households having to forego presents as they choose between buying food or providing heat. In 2017, generous Antrim Gaels and their friends and families donated more than 1000 shoeboxes through the #SaffronAid2 charity initiative and it is hoped that even more can be collected and distributed this year, helping to make sure that as many families as possible wake up to something special to open on 25 December.
Antrim GAA PRO, Sean Kelly, commented: “GAA clubs and supporters are wonderfully generous and we are delighted to do what we can to help those less fortunate than ourselves. This is our third year of running this very special appeal and we were overwhelmed by the generosity of Co Antrim Gaels in previous years, especially last year when 30 clubs gathered more than 1000 shoeboxes. We’re also delighted to announce that Sainsburys Supermarket at the Kennedy Centre has very kindly agreed to let us loose in their aisles again with a sponsored trolley dash which will take place on 6 November.
“We’re so pleased to be working with SVP once again and we hope that there is even more support this year as each shoebox or gift that is donated makes such a huge difference to those in need within our own communities.
“Clubs across the county will be getting involved by encouraging their members to donate a shoebox containing a few items for families in need or alternatively, they can donate a gift for a child. We also hope many Clubs will make their premises available as collection points for SVP.”
Sinead Steele, #SaffronAid coordinator, explains: “It’s very simple to make a shoebox donation. The next time you’re out shopping, pick up a few extra little items, place them in a shoebox, wrap the box and mark on it whether it is suitable for a man or woman. Suitable items for the shoebox could be things such as shower gel, toothbrushes, toothpaste, lip balm, gloves, hats, small towels, chocolate, hand cream, to name just a few. Or you can provide a new, unwrapped gift for child up to 16 years old – we are also keen to take more gifts for teenage boys this year. SVP will then collect all donations from your local GAA club.”
Michael Sands, North Belfast Area Vice Presidentfor SVP, added: “I would like to thank the GAA for running #SaffronAid3 again this year and bringing it to the attention of their players and supporters – it’s a wonderful initiative. We know it is a busy and expensive time of year but picking up just one extra toy or a few small, inexpensive items for this appeal could bring a smile to someone who might otherwise wake up with nothing on Christmas morning.
“Each year thousands of families approach SVP for support at Christmas time, so this campaign really will make a huge difference to so many people in our communities and with your help, Christmas may become a little bit brighter for some families.”
Iain Semple, Manager of Sainsburys Supermarket at the Kennedy Centre, said: “As a local business, we’re always glad to be able to give something back to our local community. Christmas can be a stressful time of year for those who are already struggling and we hope that our continued support for #SaffronAid3 will go someway towards helping those in need this year.”
The closing date for receipt of donations to all clubs is 28 November 2018. For further information on Antrim GAA’s campaign, please visit www.antrim.gaa.ie.