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Friday 9 December 2016

'I'm working to turn my son's death into something positive', says brave Jackie

Two years after the passing of her son Daniel, Jackie Rafter finds fundraising for vulnerable teens plays a big part in her healing process, writes Melanie Finn

Jackie Rafter with her son Daniel
Jackie Rafter with her son Daniel
Jackie Rafter with Daniel and her daughter Kate
Jackie and Kate at the fundraiser for TeenLine

Jackie Rafter has opened up for the first time on her son Daniel's untimely death and how she's trying to turn the tragedy into "something positive".

The 25-year-old son that she had with her former husband, celebrity hairdresser David Marshall, died tragically on July 12, 2014.

Now his mum Jackie, who spent years working with the Bubblegum Club, has gone back to her charity roots and immersed herself in fundraising for youth support services.

She hosted a fundraiser in his memory over the weekend, namely the 17th International Polo Tournament at the Phoenix Park, as she and her friends raised thousands of euros for TeenLine Ireland.

And Jackie said that if the money raised can spare one family the pain that she went through, it will be worth it.

Last month she marked the two-year anniversary of his death with a seven-day trek to Mont Blanc in France, and said while she found it tough, it was very cathartic for her.

Dread

"It was an awful lot harder than I thought. I'm on my feet all the time in work, but this was 11 hours a day in the mountains and coming down was a lot harder than going up," she said.

The morning of her son's second anniversary, she said she woke up with a feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach as she felt so far away from home - and her late son.

"On the day of Daniel's anniversary, it was really tough. I was upset when I woke up that morning.

"I was thinking, 'Oh my God, I'm so far away from Daniel, what am I doing here?' as I had his ashes at home.

"But I did feel closer to him up in the mountains - and I'm not normally a believer in things like that. I know I did the right thing.

"I had a prayer with me that my daughter Kate read out at his funeral, so I read that out. Everyone was really moved and I turned around afterwards and I saw there was a cross on the mountain in the middle of nowhere. I couldn't believe it."

Thanks to the trek, she and her 11 trekking companions helped raise nearly €30,000 for the Peter McVerry Trust.

Well-known on Dublin's social scene, she spent more than ten years working with the Bubblegum Club, which fundraises for children with life-limiting illnesses.

So while drumming up funds for worthy causes came as second nature to her, last Saturday was the first time that she held an event in memory of her beloved son.

Two years on from Daniel's passing, she said she has "good days and bad days" as she tries to come to terms with what happened.

She paid tribute to her family, including her twin sister Louise and her daughter Kate, whom she said has been amazingly strong as they try to come to terms with losing Daniel so young.

"Kate still lives with me and she has been a tower of strength, she's wonderful," she said.

Jackie also praised organisations like TeenLine, which offers a free phone and text service dedicated to troubled teens.

"It's absolutely scary what's happening and they're an amazing organisation.

"What's different with TeenLine is that it's specifically there for teenagers, and even if someone is not taking drugs themselves they can contact them if they're worried about a friend," she said.

Jackie reached out to restaurateur Sally-Anne Clarke after Daniel's passing, given that she's an ambassador for the charity.

Sally-Anne, who owns L'Ecrivain with husband Derry, also lost a child in tragic circumstances - their son Andrew died suddenly in December 2012.

"She was one of the first people I reached out to after Daniel's death.

Opportunity

"When the idea of hosting the polo day first came up, I went to her and said, 'What can I do for the charity?' So when the opportunity came up to host the polo day, it seemed an ideal event to have in Daniel's memory," she said.

She was joined by over 90 supporters at the Phoenix Park on Saturday for the 17th International Polo Tournament, with proceeds going towards TeenLine Ireland.

She and her pals raised more than €12,000 from the sell-out event and she said she was bowled over by the level of support.

Well-known publican Alan Clancy sponsored the whole day's proceedings, with Lisa Fitzpatrick helping to judge the 'best dressed' at the event.

"I'm beyond exhausted organising this for the past few weeks - I can't believe that I used to do this full-time," said Jackie. "But if I can turn something like Daniel's passing into something positive, it will be worth it."

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