From the car boot to Downing Street

Edith and Robin Simms during their visit to Number 10 Downing Street. INNT 27-100-CON
Edith and Robin Simms during their visit to Number 10 Downing Street. INNT 27-100-CON
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A CARNMONEY family’s charitable works have taken them from the local car boot sale all the way to Number 10 Downing Street.

Edith Simms and her family have been raising money for Epilepsy Research UK since the tragic death of daughter, Jill, ten years ago.

Edith Simms and her daughter Caroline Allen. INNT 27-028-FP

Edith Simms and her daughter Caroline Allen. INNT 27-028-FP

Jill was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 18 and she died just a month after her 30th birthday in January 2002. She had been married for only 19 months.

Her mother Edith told the Times: “Jill was doing ok, taking her medication and just getting by with it. Then one night she was complaining of having a headache and then before we knew it she had died a few hours later.”

Since then Jill’s family have fundraised tirelessly for the Epilepsy Research UK charity.

Edith continued: “It started at the funeral, we asked for donations instead of flowers.

“Then we set up the Jill Sloan Memorial Fund and every time money goes into it the charity tell us how much is used and what for.

“There have been projects based in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast and all across the UK, aimed at developing research and treatment for the condition.

“We had never heard of anyone dying from epilepsy before but it can be quite common. Nothing can ever replace Jill, but it is heartening to know that some good has come from her death. And our work for the charity helps keep Jill’s memory alive.”

Family members and friends have run marathons and taken to the skies for parachute jumps to help, but it has been the weekly car boot sale at Houston’s Corner every Saturday which has helped the family raise over £18,000 for the charity.

Edith added: “We started going and it just kind of caught on. Then word spread and people began making donations and it has gone on from there and we go most weeks now.”

It was the family’s dedication and commitment to the charity which led to them receiving an invite to Number 10 Downing Street in London for a reception hosted by the Prime Minister’s wife Samantha Cameron.

Describing the visit Edith said: “It was fantastic, it was like going to the airport there was that many security measures. But it was good to be able to actually put a face to the names we have been working with over the years and we met other families like ourselves who had lost family members to epilepsy.

“It is something we never thought we would experience when we started out.

“But it is not all me, I cannot take the credit, it has also been my daughter Caroline and her husband Michael and of course my husband Robin - who does all the heavy lifting.

“And I would also like to offer a big thanks to all those people who have supported us over the years - without their help we would have never have raised such a fantastic amount of money.”

According to Epilepsy Research UK, epilepsy is one of the most common neurological conditions, affecting almost half a million people in the UK.

Every day 75 people are diagnosed with epilepsy and every year it claims the lives of 1,000 people.

There are numerous causes of epilepsy, such as a stroke, head injury or a genetic defect and it can take many forms including a momentary blank spell to dramatic major convulsion.

To donate to the Jill Sloan Memorial Fund or to Edith’s weekly sale call Tel: 028 9083 6486.