FRIENDS and family of a Portstewart man diagnosed with a brain tumour have rallied together to organiser the first of a series of fund raising events to support the 27-year-old’s life-saving treatment in England.

Niall Tohill O’Neill was recently diagnosed with a childhood slow-grow brain tumour and underwent exploratory surgery last Monday at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol and according to his grandmother has coped with his ordeal with “great fortitude and dignity”.

Now the entire community back home is planning to support the popular local on his long road to recovery by raising funds through a “walk, jog or run” event between Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush.

A team of specialist doctors was assembled to perform the procedure but it is not yet known if further surgery will be required. A biopsy has been performed but Niall has not yet been advised of any histology and his parents are with him at this difficult time.

Either way, Niall will have a long road back to recovery with doctors estimating it could take anything up to a year for the young man to make a full recovery.

Speaking exclusively to The Coleraine Times, grandmother Mrs Mona Harte, said: “On behalf of the family I would like to say thank you for the overwhelming support we have received from the community . The Doctors have advised us that Niall is making good progress since the operation, he has had an MRI scan and we are now awaiting results.”

She added: “Niall was a happy young boy that has grown up to be a fine and very brave young man. He has handled all of this with great fortitude and dignity and we are all so proud of him.”

Administrator for The Family and Friends of Niall Tohill O’Neill, Rita Mhach, told The Times: “Niall’s recovery will involve recuperative care along with accommodation for him and his family during this time, as well as trying to bring him back to Northern Ireland.

“As you can imagine this is a stressful time for the family as it is not known if he can be transferred from Bristol once they start his treatment.

She added: “As a group, we hope that by running various events we can show Niall and his family the huge support they have in the local community and hope this will speed up his recovery.

The first event on the friends and family agenda is the Walk or Run, Just Have Fun fundraiser which will be held on Sunday, December 18, kicking off from Bud’s car park, Portstewart, at 12.30pm. Santa suits are not compulsory but festive dress is recommended.

A number of local businesses are supporting the fun run including principal supporters Dixons of Coleraine, First 4 Printing, Coleraine, The Ice House in Portstewart, Portrush Surf School along with Greg Wallace Design, the last two based in Portrush.

Rita went on: “We are looking at this fun run as a start of a series of events to help the family as his recovery is expected to be over a year and are already in talks with a night bar/club venue to do a music evening with a difference.

“We have secured Andy McClelland, the kayaking World champion, Al Mennie, the international big wave surfer, John McCurry, the four times Irish longboard champion and last but not least Martin Kelly, the ten times Irish champion bodyboarder to start the race, which is expected to attracted upwards of 50 participants.”

“Some of our local golf professionals have been contacted but we are aware they are away representing Northern Ireland around the world. Hopefully they will be able to get involved at some stage, if not at this event, then at one of the other events planned for the future. Either way we are still hopeful that there could be a few surprises from the local golf community!”

Donations to the cause can be made at FaceBook pledge page

Cheques, made payable to Mrs Joan Tohill, can be sent to 3 Knox Park, Portrush, Co Antrim, BT56 8LG, or the Hair Boutique, Bath Street, Portrush. Cash can be deposited at the Ulster Bank using the charity details: Account Number 10291189, sort code 981320. Alternatively, donations can be made via sponsor forms, available from Joan on 07754083164.