CHRISTMAS CAMPAIGN BOOSTS RICHARD’S DRIVE

A DONAGHADEE man is £1,000 close to his goal of creating a special holiday centre for people with complex health needs.

Thirty year-old Richard Douglas, who has been living with the terminal condition Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy since the age of three, embarked on an Advent calendar challenge just before Christmas, raising £1,080.

Richard’s illness affects the sufferer’s skeletal muscles, including the muscles around the heart and lungs. Due to the condition, Richard has been using an electric power chair due to progressive muscle wastage and he has also been reliant on a ventilator for the past six years.  

 The local man is one of many who are unable to enjoy a holiday in Northern Ireland due to the lack of venues to accommodate their complex needs.  

However, after shielding for 17 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Richard enjoyed his time at a specialist lodge in Donegal which accommodated his condition. 

Since then, his mother Sharon, calls him a ‘man on a mission’, founding the charity, Hoist Assisted Holidays (HAH). The main quest of the group is to raise £250,000, which will go to provide inclusive seaside accommodation at Atlantic View Leisure Park in Ballycastle.  

With over £40,000 in the bank already, Richard has raised a further £1,080 thanks to his Advent adventures this year, which started at the beginning of December. The wider sum has been the result of family fundraising, Christmas raffles and generous donations. 

Different pictures were taken of Richard during Advent including in front of the iconic Belfast City Hall Christmas tree, inside the Ulster Hall and enjoying a cosy Christmas Eve at home, all of which were uploaded to his Facebook page. 

His mother Sharon said that taking images for the virtual advent calendar were difficult given the nature of her son’s condition.  

“It’s very difficult for Richard to be out and about, as he needs to bring all of his medical equipment with us, like back-up ventilators,” said the Donaghadee mother. “So, if we are going out, it can be quite difficult, especially in the run up to Christmas.” 

“For Richard, it was a huge challenge. Other people may not realise the background to it, they may think it is not that much of a challenge, but it is for Ricard, especially to keep that going.” 

“After Richard was shielding during Covid, we found one place to holiday. It was a specialist lodge in Donegal which was purpose built and had all of the equipment we would need.  

“We went along to it and had a great week there. After that, Richard was like a man on a mission, he needed to replicate one of these in Northern Ireland. 

“We drove around different caravan sites. He didn’t like the ones we saw initially, then we went towards Atlantic View Leisure Park in Ballycastle.  

“The caravans there were like large lodges. They appealed to Richard because the accommodation looked the same from the outside, but the inside would be adapted to suit specialist needs.” 

 Donations can be made to Hoist Assisted Holidays can be made at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/sharon-douglas-226?fbclid=IwAR2ZgOyYp4ugxMf1uBGhWGS8dq784LdfuDnPFPg5bvJ6q60virtVPQHCnLY