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Strabane man renews vows during charity challenge

A STRABANE man has renewed his marriage vows at the halfway point of a marathon charity challenge inspired by his wife, who is currently receiving palliative treatment for cancer.

Clergyman Kevin Graham, originally from Strabane and now Minister of St Bartholomew’s Church in Stranmillis, Belfast, had been due to take part in a Macmillan Cancer Support challenge with his sons, Jamie and Luke, to raise money for the charity that has helped their family. However, when Covid-19 restrictions caused the event to be delayed, the intrepid trio set out on an emotional 26.2 mile marathon walk on the same date.

They completed a round trip from St Bartholomew’s to St Colman’s Church in Carrickfergus, where Kevin married his wife Cheryl 25 years ago this year.

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Kevin asked Cheryl to be waiting at St Colman’s for him and their sons, to renew their marriage vows on the day.

Cheryl said, “We have been through so much as a family and we are incredibly close. I was told in November 2020 that I had nine months to live if I didn’t have treatment or if the treatment I received didn’t slow the progression of the cancer.

“That’s why we didn’t want to wait for the rescheduled Macmillan event. When Kevin and the boys were plotting a new route, it was serendipitous that the round trip distance between the two churches was exactly 26.2 miles, and when Kevin asked me to be at the church waiting for him, Jamie and Luke to arrive, it was just perfect.

“How could I possibly turn down an excuse for a new dress?” she laughed.

The fundraising total is already over £21,000, which will be a huge help to Macmillan, particularly given the recent impact of Covid-19.

Kevin said his wife’s diagnosis came as a shock to the family and he found that the challenge gave him an important focus.

He said, “I did plenty of training for the marathon distance, getting out and walking every day.

“ It has been important for my mental health and resilience – it gave me time to process things and the strength to cope with the present.

“News like this makes you think about what’s actually important. You have to re-evaluate everything. We’re such a tight, strong family unit and we plan to have as many special moments as we can in the time we have together.

“It was a joy to spend so much time with Jamie and Luke on the walk, talking, sharing and enjoying each other’s company.

“And, of course, Cheryl and I renewing our vows after 25 years, particularly during a big family endeavour like this, was a very personal and important affirmation of all that is good and positive in our lives at this moment.”

Tania Bailie, area fundraising manager for Macmillan said “The money they have raised so far could enable 60 people in NI to access a Macmillan Grant to help manage the cost of living with cancer. The Graham family’s incredible fundraising will make a huge difference to people here.”

• If you wish to donate the family’s fundraising page is available at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/grahamfamily2021

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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 4 Castle Street, Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland, BT82 8AB