THE mother of a Ballinamallard woman who died suddenly in February says she was “blown away” by the community support for a charity fundraiser hosted at the weekend in memory of her much-loved daughter.

Rachael Shannon passed away peacefully on February 13 at the South West Acute Hospital after she developed sepsis.

The 27-year-old was born with a genetic condition called Noonan Syndrome, which meant she had heart defects present at birth (congenital heart disease), and had undergone heart surgery in 2016.

Rachael’s untimely death was not connected to her congenital heart condition, but her family have chosen to support the British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland (BHF NI).

A passionate supporter of Ballinamallard United Football Club, Rachael was actively involved in the club’s Ladies Committee.

On Saturday, September 4, organised by the Ladies Committee and Rachael’s family and friends, a bucket collection was held at the club’s home match against Harland and Wolff Welders, which was followed by a fundraising barbecue and music in the clubhouse that evening.

“The whole day itself was a total emotional rollercoaster, and Rachael was very much at the forefront of all our minds,” said Rachael’s mother, Wendy Shannon.

“It was a lovely event, and it was really well organised by the Ladies Committee. Rachael was part of the Ladies Committee, and so am I, but on this particular project I was more of an onlooker.

“It was so well carried out, everything went according to plan, just the donations, the gifts, the compassion and kindness of people [were incredible].

“We’re absolutely blown away,” she said, adding: “There are not enough words to thank people for what they’ve done.”

Saying that it was an “amazing event” that was very well attended, Wendy added: “Seeing so many people there that loved her, really and truly, you can’t put it into words. We are totally overwhelmed.”

‘A beautiful tribute’

She went on to share some highlights from the evening: “My sister, Helen, paid a beautiful tribute to Rachael, what she meant to the club, and what the club meant to her. It was a very emotional tribute. That was the highlight of the night really for me.

“Then my sister, Shirley, she had made bunting out of Rachael’s merchandise. It is beautiful, it’s just memories again. It will hang in the bar for this season.”

As donations are still coming in, the total amount raised from the bucket collection and evening event have yet to be calculated. All money raised will be shared between BHF NI and Ballinamallard Football Club.

“Both the club and the British Heart Foundation will benefit from it,” said Wendy, adding: “We chose the charity because of the locality. The money will remain in Northern Ireland and it will go to fund research into why babies are born with congenital heart disease.

“So hopefully this will go some small way to funding that research.

“Hopefully we have done Rachael proud because she loved that club, she absolutely loved it, and it was part and parcel of Rachael’s life. We can’t thank the people enough – everybody that was involved in it, in any way,” said Wendy.

The Head of BHF NI, Fearghal McKinney, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Rachael’s parents, family and friends and everyone at Ballinamallard FC for their wonderful generosity.

“It was heart-warming to hear about the outpouring of love for Rachael and her family on Saturday and we are humbled that they have chosen to support us at such a difficult time.

“It’s a testament to their love and care for Rachael that they are doing so much good in her memory.

“We couldn’t do the research we do into congenital heart disease and other heart and circulatory conditions without the support of people like the Shannon family.”