Gambling for a good cause

Alan Francis from Carvoeiro regularly fund-raises for the Bom Samaritano Children’s Home in Alvor and first took Jackie Connoley there for a visit last September. Shocked by the small amount of money that the home receives from the government to help support these children and inspired by Alan’s enthusiasm and sincerity, Jackie decided to organise a race evening to raise funds for the home when she returned to Ireland.

Jackie commented: “I have fundraised before for other children’s homes but, compared to the Bom Samaritano, they were like five-star accommodation. They need help with basic facilities to allow the children to each develop their own little talents. They have nowhere to get away to read or play and the older ones have nowhere to study.”

The race meeting was a great success, raising a total of 6,000 euros. It took Jackie just eight weeks to organise the event, which usually takes a committee of 10 around three months to organise!With a lot of help and support from her friends and local acquaintances, Jackie had to sell over 80 horses, jockeys and trainers, as well as arrange sponsorship for 10 races, and design and place adverts for sponsors in the race book.Hundreds of race books detailing all the chosen names were printed and distributed by her son-in-law. Jackie even had to get a letter from Marisa Bossa, who runs the children’s home, to allow her to fundraise. This letter had to be taken to Jackie’s local police station, which sent two policemen to visit her house to ensure that everything was above board!

The event was held in Goggin’s Pub in Monkstown, Ireland, who kindly donated the premises and a finger-buffet dinner. A large screen was erected to show the races, which were purchased from America and arrived sealed (they also have to be destroyed at the end of the night). Punters were invited to bet on each horse and, as the betting was run on the traditional Tote system, some lucky punters left with more cash than they arrived with! The evening was a great success and the pub stayed open until the early hours of the morning.

After the race meeting, Jackie said: “Thanks to everyone involved for making the evening such a success – the generosity from everyone was fantastic! I would like some of the money to go towards the roof on the small extension that is being built, which will allow the children a quiet study area. Any remaining money can go towards the borehole desperately needed to back up the water supply, which is regularly cut off in the Portimão area. I hope that others will be encouraged to do their bit, even by donating things for the older children to play with or sending them new and fashionable clothes. It is so important that the children receive new items as well.”

Jackie’s friend, Donna Lamont, was so moved by Jackie’s desire to help that she went out and bought an outfit or toy for each child and sent them all over from America. Upon hearing what the gifts were for, the shop manager, a tough and hardened New Yorker, gave her a 50 per cent discount!

The children are now looking forward to spending their annual week at Olhão campsite (at a cost of 65 euros per child), and enjoying a variety of sporting and art activities away from the confines of the home. Come September, Marisa will have to go shopping for school materials for all 36 children, who are aged between three and 17 years. The costs of providing all these necessities and treats soon add up and Marisa has to fund them mainly from kind donations. “If just a few people pledged a small monthly donation to us, it would make such a difference – or they can make a donation using our bank NIB 003600609910008311641 – Montepio Geral. Thank you to all those who continue to support us,” she explained.

• If you would like to help in any way, please contact Marisa Bossa on 282 459 201 or Alan Francis on 282 340 974.By Isobel Costa