Willie leaves a lasting memory

Willie Rea who passed away earlier this year
Willie Rea who passed away earlier this year

Sixty sick babies and children are set to receive comfort from new stoma bears, after £1,800 was raised following the death of a Co Antrim farmer earlier this year.

After the death of Willie Rea in April, his family asked for donations for the Ballater based charity Buttony bears in his memory.

They were able to raise enough money to sponsor 60 of these special bears for children having surgery to create a stoma.

Willie, who farmed on the Seven Mile Straight near Antrim, was well known in agricultural circles, being a former club leader and president of Lylehill Young Farmers Club. He farmed with his son William at Ballymather on the Seven Mile Straight.

His wife Jean explained that her husband was a long time member of Ballyclare Male Voice Choir and Queens Island Male Choir and he sang with them throughout the province and much further afield.

Both choirs sang at the large service of thanksgiving for Willie’s life in Killead Presbyterian Church where he had been a member of the Kirk Session.

Jean added: “Buttony is a wonderful charity based in Ballater in Aberdeenshire, a village much loved by our family.

“ Their teddies provide not only comfort but help children with stomas to explain to other children why teddy and they are different and help them cope with being different.”

Representatives of the charity recently met with Jean and handed over half of the teddies which she will deliver to hospitals herself. The other half will follow shortly.

The bears will be waiting in Northern Ireland for sixty sick babies and children immediately after bowel surgery,

Buttony Bear was born in May 2015 when Jenny Gow decided she wanted to do something to help children having stoma surgery.

Back in 2000 when her daughter Eilidh was three, she had surgery to form a stoma and a family friend gave her a teddy bear with a button to represent a stoma. That bear, and Eilidh, were the inspiration for a Bear Named Buttony.

Since 2005 Jenny and the team of ‘Bear Doctors’ have distributed almost 2,000 bears to children across the country.

Buttony is funded entirely by donations and fundraising, and all the team that produce Buttony are volunteers.