Former Boyzone and Coronation Street star Keith Duffy flies in from Dubai to award Portadown woman who set up autism charity with a special National Lottery honour
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Julia, who founded The Autism Hive just over a year ago after her son Luke O’Hara lost his life to suicide, was honoured with a special National Lottery Award on Thursday at the Seagoe Hotel in Portadown.
Suicide is regarded as one of the leading causes of death for people with autism and The Autism Hive provides suicide prevention measures, intervention and post-intervention support for those with the condition and their families.
Luke was just 25 at the time of his tragic death and, as his mum looked for answers, she realised there was a need for young people and their families to have more community support. Now she has been recognised as the Community/Charity winner in the 2023 National Lottery Awards, which recognises the inspirational people and projects who do extraordinary things with the help of National Lottery funding.
Former Coronation Street star Keith Duffy presented Julia with her National Lottery Awards trophy. He has been fundraising for autism for more than 20 years through the Keith Duffy Foundation and has worked to help raise awareness for children with autism since his daughter Mia was first diagnosed with the condition at the age of 18 months.
Keith shared how his daughter was initially non-verbal and how they challenged views that his daughter may one day be ‘institutionalised’. He is very proud of his daughter who is now in her 20s and recently graduated from a university in Dublin and is currently working for a medical firm.
He said: “It is an incredible honour to present Julia with a National Lottery Award; she is such an amazing and inspiring person. It is remarkable that she has been able to overcome such adversity and channel her grief into a fantastic project which provides so much support to those with autism and their families. This cause is very personal to me, given the work of my Keith Duffy Foundation which is on a mission to make a meaningful difference in the lives of children and young adults affected by autism. It is truly disheartening how many families affected by autism are not receiving the appropriate support, guidance, intervention and education they desperately need. We need to change that.
“Julia is a thoroughly deserving winner of a National Lottery Award and National Lottery players, who raise £30 million every week for good causes like The Autism Hive, can be very proud in the role they have played in funding this wonderful woman and her organisation.”
Julia added: “I am thrilled to have won this award not just for me and the team at The Autism Hive but for the legacy of my son Luke and other families who have had to go through the loss of a loved one. National Lottery funding has been vital to our charity allowing us to provide vital training to help support autistic people in crisis. It has helped us help others and I am very grateful for this support.”