By Mary-Claire Rennick, Director and founding member of Childhood Cancer Foundation Ireland
Light it up Gold began in September 2013 with 20 or so buildings lighting up gold for Childhood Cancer Awareness. This was before Childhood Cancer Ireland was established and we were just a group of parents, going through similar journeys with our children, who were at different stages in their treatment for childhood cancer.
None of us thought we would be here – that childhood cancer would touch our family. Childhood cancer brings incredible isolation and can be a very lonely place day-to-day. But it also brings connections with other families, new friendships forged on St. John’s Ward, with parents who understand the fear and isolation. And those connections are what led to our first awareness campaign for childhood cancer.
We started as a number of families who wanted to create greater awareness of childhood cancer and for our children – whether they were out of treatment or still in treatment to have a space to come together outside of hospital. We wanted to remember and cherish those children who had sadly passed away and for their parents to know that they are never forgotten.
So, we began asking prominent buildings to ‘Light it up Gold’ for September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. We held a candle-lit vigil at the Mansion House on a lovely balmy, Autumn evening. It was really well attended and so moving. We gathered at the Mansion House and walked, led by the Mayor Oisín Quinn, around St Stephen’s Green and back. The Gardaí stopped the traffic and everyone wore Light it up Gold t-shirts and carried candles. Many carried photos of the children they had lost. As we walked back down Dawson Street, the Dublin Gospel Choir sang Something Inside So Strong.
It’s a night that stands out so strongly in my memory and really sowed the seed for Childhood Cancer Ireland, as we saw the need for a dedicated voice for our children with cancer – an organisation to fight on their behalf.
We held Light it up Gold walks for another 3 years and it was always such a positive and moving event. We remember those occasions with a lot of fondness but also sadness for the children who are no longer with us.
We continue to celebrate Childhood Cancer Awareness month each September and to Light it up Gold for all children, adolescents and young adults impacted by childhood cancer.
From that very first walk, we remember in particular Charlotte Butler, photographed below.
Charlotte was smiling and held her candle sitting on her Dad’s shoulders, but she had sadly relapsed a few days earlier and passed away in 2014.
Her family attended subsequent walks with their daughters, who held photos of Charlotte.