A car dealer who has lost a son to a rare genetic condition has organised a flying Santa fundraiser to “bring a smile” to children at Christmas.
Johnny Farrell was helped by friends and family to build a flying sleigh for Santa, which was lifted into the sky with the help of a concealed teleporter. He organised drive-by visits for local children in his native Galway on Saturday to raise funds for the Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation, which has helped his family over the years.
“It’s been a terrible year for children. It’s about putting a smile on kiddies’ faces,” he said.
Farrell said that for many years he had been unable to celebrate Christmas because of the memories it brought back of his eldest son Cillian, who died in 2010 at the age of four.
“It took me a long time to get back into Christmas. It was dead to me for years. After losing my son, I just couldn't get it,” he said.
Cillian had a rare chromosomal disorder known as Trisomy9p and Monosomy10q and required constant care.
"We couldn't function without the Jack and Jill nurses. They came on board and helped us out when we needed them,” he said.
He and his wife Allison subsequently had a daughter Isla Mae, who was born with no illnesses, and then a son Odhran, now aged three, who has the same condition as his brother.
“And we're using the same Jack and Jill nurses and we'd be lost without them,” he said.
Farrell is hoping that the Santa Woodland Winter Wonderland fundraiser will raise at least €20,000 for the Jack and Jill Foundation through a GoFundMe donation page he has set up.
He said that “friends and family” had rallied to help, along with businesses from all around the country. He borrowed a snow machine from Franc, the wedding designer in Cork, as well as traffic management signs from a Laois plant hire firm and Christmas trees and plants from local landscapers.
“I bought and paid for 1,000 selection boxes for children and I have another couple of hundred selection boxes donated,” he said.
Farrell brought his son Odhran for a special preview of Santa being lifted into the air on his sleigh, which has been set up on the grounds of the Woodland car dealership company he runs in Claregalway.
“Odhran is the lifeblood of the house. The stuff he does brings so much happiness to you. It’s unconditional love. He’ll always love you. That’s the way it is,” he said.
The Woodland Winter Wonderland GoFundMe page available at the following link: is https://ie.gofundme.com/f/woodland-winter-wonderland-in-aid-of-jack-jill