Gilford singer inspired to organise charity gig

GILFORD singer James Rogers was so touched when he heard about the plight of a three-year-old girl, awaiting surgery for a rare form of epilepsy, that he has organised a charity concert for her.
Gilford singer James Rodgers has organised the charity gig.Gilford singer James Rodgers has organised the charity gig.
Gilford singer James Rodgers has organised the charity gig.

A star-studded line-up of local entertainers will perform at the fundraising gig in the Belmont House Hotel next Friday night (February 9) to help little Rachel Gribben.

The Killyleagh girl was diagnosed with focal cortical dysplasia in October 2022, which results in her taking severe seizures which cannot be treated with medication.

Rachel has four different types of seizures - myoclonic, absence, atonic and tonic.

James and RebekahJames and Rebekah
James and Rebekah

Due to not being able to say definitively that her seizures are only coming from one place, she is no longer a candidate for surgery in the UK.

However, her family have found a specialist in New Jersey who is certain he can give Rachel a better chance at life, with better seizure control.

To travel to New Jersey, the family would be looking at a cost of around £100,000.

But Dr. Tomyaz visits a hospital in western Ukraine once a year to give treatment to children who can’t get to the US. This would be for a fraction of the price - approximately £20,000.

Having heard about the family’s plight, Gilford singer and dad-of-two James decided to step in to help.

“When I read it on Facebook I said to myself, ‘I’d like to do something for that wee girl’,” James told the Chronicle.

“I would sing in bars myself and do a lot of gigs in care homes during the week. I contacted her mum and got on the ball.

“I haven’t met Rachel in person, but her mum is talking about bringing her on the night for a wee while.

“I’ve contacted singers I’ve got to know through the music scene. Barry Doyle, from Hilltown, is doing the backing band on the night and there’s about 13 other singers. It’s all coming together well and it promises to be a great night.

“We hope to sell 150 tickets and there will be a raffle. I also have a few collection buckets in different bars.

“Even if we could raise a couple of thousand, I’d be delighted.

“I have a daughter myself, who is seven, so Rachel’s story really resonated with me.

“If this surgery can give her a better quality of life, then that can only be a good thing.”

Talented James has been gigging for the past eight years, with his country and mid-tempo music proving a big hit in local venues.

“I’m kept busy with my music, doing three or four gigs a week,” he explained.

“I do a lot of care homes like Seapatrick and Iveagh in Banbridge, and I was in Harry’s Bar last Friday night.”

He’s now looking forward to the star-studded concert in the Belmont next week. Performers include Conor McKay, Bonnie Stewart, Mary Hoey, Katie McParland, Shauna Kearns, Andrew McMurdie, Amber Campbell, Neil Hobson, Caoimhe Murney - and more great acts on the night!

Tickets are priced £10 and are available from the Belmont House Hotel or direct from James Rodgers.

The family have also set up a fundraising page to try to raise the funds for Rachel’s surgery: https://www.gofundme.com/f/Rachels-Journey1

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