A CASTLEDERG woman has rasied over £2,500 for charity in a virtual 'three mile run a day and dryathlon' challenge during the month of June.
Marcella Robinson, who works as a music teacher, raised the impressive sum in aid of the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland (AANI) service.
AANI provides the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) for Northern Ireland, together with its partners at the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service.
The service brings urgent medical assistance to anywhere in the province, operating seven days a week for 12 hours per day.
Marcella decided to take on the challenge during the COVID-19 lockdown period as a way of maintaining a routine to her days working from home as well as raising funds a vital service as she knows only too well what it is like to have a loved one experience a trauma injury.
“My father had a motorcycle accident 30 years ago and he sustained life changing injuries but of course we didn’t have our wonderful air ambulance at that time.
"I feel it is of vital importance that we continue to support and to hold onto it now," she explained.
Marcella embraced the personal challenge from the beginning of June and was inspired to keep going as the donations flowed in via her Just Giving page.
“When I started off on June 1, it was late in the evening as it was such a warm day and I thought to myself, I must be mad!
"However, as the days went on and the money was rolling in, I felt determined - some may say ‘thran’ - and knew that the job would be done rain, hail or snow," she continued.
This is not the first time Marcella has supported the Air Ambulance service.
In early March, before COVID-19 took hold, she held ‘An Evening of Music’ in which her music students performed in Derg Parish Church raised £870.
Urging other individuals, businesses and community groups to support the charity now or in the future, Marcella continued: “It's so important, particularly to those in rural areas, where the helicopter can get to within 25 minutes.
"That response time is crucial in saving a person’s life or limb.”
She concluded by thanking of all of those who have supported her over the past few weeks.
“The support has been tremendous. I never set a target, it set itself," she said.
Damien McAnespie, Air Ambulance NI fundraising manager, said the fundraising efforts of people like Marcella is invaulable to maintaining the service.
It takes £2m each year in fundraising to keep the service operational.
Mr McAnespie added that despite the lockdown restrictions, the incident rate of accidents requiring Air Ambulance assistance is as prevalent as ever.
“The past number of months have been difficult for everyone and it’s important that all of us look after ourselves.
"Any form of exercise is one fantastic way to do this and the way Marcella set herself this daily challenge combined with a fundraiser for Air Ambulance NI is fantastic," he said.
"Throughout lockdown and despite most of us spending more time at home, trauma accidents and incidents continue.
"The Air Ambulance NI is still needed on average one or two times daily, and since the service started three years ago, the team have been tasked to over 1,487 incidents.
"Each day £5,500 is needed and like every charity, we are experiencing a massive reduction in fundraising due to COVID-19.
"This is why virtual fundraisers like Marcellas are so important as they ensure our team can continue to fly and respond to trauma calls.
"I’d encourage anyone who has an idea to support the charity to give it a go; we are only too happy to help and support your fundraising.”