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Appeal for tradespeople across NI to help a bed-bound Co Antrim former bricklayer

A building charity is appealing for local tradespeople to help adapt the home of a bed-bound former bricklayer this summer.

In its first project in Northern Ireland, Band of Builders is asking for local tradespeople to help Kevin McGowan from Toomebridge, Co Antrim who is suffering from a rare neurological disorder.

The registered charity, which completes practical projects to help members of the UK construction industry who are battling illness or injury, is set to help Mr McGowan this summer and already has a list of volunteers.

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However, the charity is still keen to hear from bricklayers, groundworkers, labourers, roofers, carpenters, joiners, plasterers, plumbers, tilers and decorators from across Northern Ireland who would be willing to get involved for as little as one day of the two-week project, which starts on 7th July.

Kevin McGowan from Toomebridge, Co Antrim.

Work will be carried out to extend onto the rear of Kevin’s property, enabling a sun lounge with a wrap-around access ramp to be created.

Kevin, a 65-year-old father of six, was a fit and healthy bricklayer and contractor before being diagnosed with progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), which is an extremely rare condition that has almost never occurred in a previously healthy individual.

It causes irreversible brain damage and has no successful treatment to date, usually resulting in death within a year of diagnosis.

He was diagnosed more than a decade ago and needs round-the-clock care, which is provided by his devoted wife Margaret and community support. Although he has limited speech and movement and has to be fed via a tube, Kevin is grateful that he has been able to see his children grow up.

Kevin McGowan from Toomebridge, Co Antrim.

County Tyrone-based Marcus McGee, a Band of Builders Trustee and Project Lead, said this is the first project that the charity is undertaking in Northern Ireland, and although there is great word-of-mouth awareness about Kevin’s plight, Marcus is hoping that more local tradespeople will answer the call for help.

“Kevin’s is such a heart-breaking story and one where Band of Builders wants to step in and help one of our own by carrying out work that will make his and his family’s lives just a little bit easier,” said Marcus.

“We would be grateful for all the help we can get on this, and even if tradespeople already have commitments between 7th and 22nd July that mean they can’t join in on this project, we would encourage them to learn more about the work that we do and become part of our community, which is getting closer to the 50,000 mark across the UK.”

Kevin’s project has been boosted by news that local suppliers and merchants - including one of its Patron Partners JP Corry - will be gifting materials.

Kevin McGowan from Toomebridge, Co Antrim.

The charity was founded in 2016 when, upon hearing that his friend Keith Ellick was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Lincolnshire landscaper Addam Smith wanted to do something to make his mate’s life a little bit easier. A plan to landscape his garden won the support of his fellow tradespeople and saw the project grow into a full-scale renovation of Keith’s house, carried out by volunteers from across the country.

Already this year, the charity has completed three projects: one to build an extension for a surveyor from Lancashire so he could return home after nearly two years in a rehabilitation centre in Leeds, after he was left with severe brain damage. Another was to landscape an outside space to enable a South Shields wife of a plasterer to recuperate from chemotherapy after her dog alerted her to ovarian cancer. The most recent was to help a builder from Hereford who worked on another Band of Builders project to finish his own home improvements after being diagnosed with an incurable form of brain cancer.

Kevin’s will be the 27th project carried out by volunteers from Band of Builders and, as well as having the support of tradespeople across the UK, it is backed by major names within the construction industry, including DeWALT, Jewson, Gibbs & Dandy, V12 Footwear, Talasey, Resideo and Haemmerlin.

Anyone who is interested is encouraged to find out more about the charity on its Facebook page: www.facebook.com/bandofbuilders/.

For more information on how to become a member or how to apply for help from Band of Builders, visit www.bandofbuilders.org.

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