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Botanic Inns Doorstaff Hug it Out for Shimna Valley Holiday Home
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AN innovative fundraising campaign has been launched by Botanic Inns door staff in aid of the Shimna Valley Holiday Home in Newcastle run by the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children.

Door staff at the Botanic Inn’s 16 bar outlets comprising some of Belfast’s most popular bars will be embracing customers with hugs this weekend as part of a campaign to raise money for this important cause. The Botanic Inns also owns Denvir’s Hotel in Downpatrick.

From 1-9 December, all Botanic Inns door staff will offer customers a hug in return for a donation to the charity. The idea is the brainchild of Paul McDonald from Apartment door staff and has been launched with the support of TV favourite Sarah Travers, a keen supporter of the charity.

BBC presenter Sarah Travers and Apartment doorman Paul Mcdonald launch the ‘Hugs not Thugs’ initiative to raise money for Northern Ireland Cancer Fund For Children. The charity drive will see door staff offer customers a hug in return for a donation to the NICFC. It runs from 1-9 December across all 16 Botanic Inns venues. Joining the launch five year old Jake Stanex who has suffered from cancer.

Customers who’d like a hug from the friendly door staff simply need to make a small donation at the collection points, situated at the entrance to each Botanic Inns venue.

Paul McDonald from Apartment security and BBC presenter Sarah Travers were joined at the launch of the charity initiative by five year-old Jake Stanex, who was just two years old when he was diagnosed with Leukaemia. The Dundonald lad has just completed over two and a half years of treatment and is doing well.

Sarah Travers added: “Belfast is renowned for having some of the most friendly door staff in Northern Ireland and I hope lots of people take advantage of a hug to raise money for this very worthy charity.”

Jake’s mother Karen urged people to ‘embrace’ the Hugs not Thugs campaign and dig deep this festive season to support a fantastic cause close to her heart.

She said: “Our lives were completely turned upside down when Jake was diagnosed with cancer. I rarely left the house and was extremely wary of letting anyone in due to the risk of infection. Regular visits from Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children’s family support workers were a lifeline for me. It was great to have someone to talk to or to watch Jake while I got caught up on my chores. The support worker also helped Jake’s older sister Hannah come to terms with what was happening to her little brother.”

Karen added: “As a family we had never been on holiday as it was too much of a risk to take Jake on a plane or a boat. So visiting the NICFC’s Pine and Birch respite cottages gave us a chance to spend time as a family in a safe environment with highly-trained staff who were sensitive to what we were going through.

“It recharged our batteries so we could go back and continue with the rest of our difficult journey and for that we will always be grateful. NICFC also supported us in practical and financial ways such as providing grants for petrol which helped us meet the extra fuel costs due to regular hospital visits.”

Paul McDonald from Apartment added: “Doormen get a lot of flak in this city but underneath it all we are just big softies. Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children is an incredibly hard-working charity which offers practical, emotional and financial support to local kids with cancer and their families.

“This is a very worthwhile cause and I would encourage people to dig deep this festive season and throw a couple of quid in our collection buckets – a hug in return from a big burly bouncer is optional – but let’s face it, who doesn’t feel better after a good cuddle? Even the medical world tells us that hugs have medicinal benefits so I hope people get involved in our campaign and donate to a local charity, get that feel-good factor and set themselves up to enjoy a good night!”

Botanic Inns hopes to raise a significant amount of money with the Hugs not Thugs campaign and is encouraging as many customers to get involved and help raise funds for a fantastic charity.