A young singer from south Armagh has released a charity CD to raise money as a thank you to the Mandeville Cancer Unit in Craigavon for all they have done for his family after his father was diagnosed with cancer.
Conor Sands was only three when Father Niall was diagnosed with cancer, but despite his early years, he remembers a wave of change in his home when he first became seriously ill.
The now 13-year-old has memories of that time and the help and support he gave to his family.
Conor, a student at St Paul’s High School in Bessbrooke, said: “I remember my father making frequent trips to the Mandeville unit for his chemotherapy, or his ‘dose of jungle juice’ as I described it.”
His Christmas CD – titled ‘A Gift of Hope’ – is his way of showing his and his family’s gratitude for the staff at the cancer ward in Craigavon.
It features eight season classics, including Away in a Manger, O Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night and We Three Kings, all beautifully sung by this remarkably talented young man.
Conor is the youngest of four children born to Niall and Joanne Sands, from Camlough.
He explained: “As a child I remember myself and my sisters Ciara and Seana and older brother Eoin having to stay with family and friends while my mother juggled her work as a nurse, ran a house, looked after a young family, took us to our after school activities and babysitting daddy.
“I first heard of the Mandeville unit this Christmas 10 years ago when my father Niall was diagnosed with cancer.
“I remember my father making frequent trips to the Mandeville unit for his chemotherapy, or his ‘jungle juice dose’ as I described it.
“The Mandeville Unit is one of four regional chemotherapy centers in Northern Ireland. Located in Craigavon Area Hospital, it facilitates the outpatient administration of chemotherapy and supportive therapies for patients who have been diagnosed with cancer.
“Every day, more than 26 people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with cancer.”
The young Bessbrook student has made quite the name for himself in local music and drama circles.
Speaking of his love of entertainment, Conor added: “Life wasn’t easy, but my mom made sure we didn’t miss anything. From that very young age I developed a love for singing and performing arts.
“I’ve had the privilege of performing in many shows, from Broadway Musicals to the upcoming premiere of ‘Matlida Jr.'”
Conor would be the first to say that it was his father’s incredible faith and the wonderful care and support of the Mandeville unit staff that gave them ‘Hope’.
Now 10 years after his father’s initial diagnosis, Conor wants to show his gratitude to everyone at Mandeville Unit for their professional care and life-saving services.
He praised the Mandeville Unit, saying, “Not only did the Mandeville Unit take care of my father, but they have been a tremendous support to us as a family and we will be forever indebted to them for the specialized care and support we have received during the challenges and fears that we as a family will be confronted with Dad’s cancer diagnosis.
“My mom and dad have a simple life motto: ‘Always do good when you get the chance’.
“So this got me thinking, what can I do? Well, I can sing! So I told my mom and before I knew it I was recording my own Christmas album and appropriately calling it ‘A Gift of Hope’.”
The CD will be launched on Wednesday December 1st with all proceeds going to the Mandeville Unit, Craigavon.
Conor is overwhelmed by the generous support for putting his CD together and would like to thank Fiona Flynn, of Flynn Performing Arts, Danny O’Neill, accompanist, Pat McCaul, Take Six Recording Studios,
Claire Butler Photography and Tony Mohan, of Midd Atlantic Duplications, who made this experience possible.
The CD costs £10 and can be purchased on site by contacting Joanne, via email at email@example.com or by calling
079 7162 8809.