The local business community has been shocked to learn of the sudden death, after a short illness, of Jack Rodgers, MBE, the founder and chairman of the Northern Ireland Children to Lapland and Days to Remember Trust.
Having been peripherally involved with a Southern Ireland charity and its inaugural trip to Lapland in 2008, Jack was determined that Northern Ireland would have its own dedicated charity….and the NICLT was born.
The concept was and remains very simple….it is to give ‘terminally ill, life limited and deserving children’ the trip of a lifetime, to meet Santa Claus, at his home in Lapland, in the run up to Christmas.
In December, 2018, the Charity made its 10th annual trip to Lapland, chartering its now customary 220 seater aircraft, which, regrettably, could be filled several times over, such are the numbers of deserving children in the province. In all, over 1000 local children have now enjoyed this incredible experience…and their families don’t have to put their hands in their pockets. Every single element of the trip is funded though the Trust, from the chartering of the plane, to the food and drink, to presents for every child, to reindeer, husky and skiboo rides and, of course, meeting the main man himself, Santa Claus.
Since its inception and thanks, in the main, to Jack’s drive, energy and total commitment, the remit of the Trust has expanded, to incorporate Days to Remember. This allows the charity to facilitate children whose particular illness perhaps precludes a trip to Lapland’s sub zero temperatures. Through this vehicle, we have taken several trips to Disneyland in Paris, which have proved to be equally rewarding for the kids and their carers…and, in some cases, their siblings.
Jack has been the driving force throughout, using his business acumen and contacts to drive the fund raising forward. His ideas have included the now annual ‘Walk to Scotland’, where, with the not insignificant support of Stena Line, our intrepid supporters, all duly sponsored, walk around and around the boat on one of its daily trips between Belfast and Cairnryan…to be rewarded with a meal on board and a party and cabaret on the return journey and raising tens of thousands of pounds in the process. Not content with that, Jack has also planned a Ramble on Rathlin for later this summer.
Over the last 10 years, the reputation of the Lapland Trust (as it is more commonly known) has grown considerably and its fund raising base has widened accordingly…and it must continue to do so.
local community radio station FUSE FM Ballymoney paid tribute to Jack;
“As most of you will know, The Lapland Trust has always been Fuse Fm Ballymoney charity.. we have raised a considerable amount of money for the charity, and plan to continue to do so. It was our pleasure to meet with Jack on numerous occasions, and we are all saddened to learn of his death.”
Regrettably, there are so many children in Northern Ireland who fall within the charity’s remit and we owe it to them…and to Jack’s memory…to ensure that the charity continues to thrive. The Trust became a huge part of Jack’s life…some would say that just about his every waking hour was devoted to it, in some shape or other.
The award, by the Queen, of an MBE, in the 2012 Honours List was the tangible reward for his commitment to the charity….and, indeed, to many charities over the last 40 years…but the beaming smiles on the faces of literally hundreds of kids and the precious memories these trips have created for their families will be his lasting legacy.
Another trip to Disneyland, Paris is being planned for later this summer and the 11th annual trip to Lapland is likely to take place on Wednesday, 18th December…Jack will not physically be there, but his presence will be keenly felt that day and in the years to come.
It has always been Jack Rodgers’ charity… and it will continue to be Jack Rodgers’ charity.