AS Christmas approaches, the RNLI is issuing its own call for help as the charity’s volunteer lifeboat crews are getting busier.
The charity is facing a ‘Perfect Storm’ with more people than ever needing its help, meaning support from the public is more important than ever.
Last year, lifeboats in Northern Ireland launched 283 times coming to the aid of 370 people.
With funds raised for the RNLI having dropped in the last year and to ensure the RNLI can continue its lifesaving work this Christmas and into the future, the charity is running a major fundraising appeal, entitled ‘The Perfect Storm’.
While many people will be thinking about presents, turkey and time with the family, dedicated RNLI volunteers at ten lifeboat stations in Northern Ireland will be ensuring their yellow wellies and lifejackets are ready for when the call comes and will be prepared to drop everything at a moment’s notice to save lives.
In Portrush RNLI this Christmas it will be a family affair for some of the lifeboat crew and if the call for help comes there will be quite a few empty chairs at the dinner table as the crew leave to launch the lifeboat.
Father and son, Gerard and Christy Bradley, will both be on call. Christy could not wait to follow in his father’s lifeboat footsteps and as soon as he turned seventeen he signed up as a lifeboat volunteer.
Gerard has moved from lifeboat crew into the Deputy Launching Authority position, which is now on land but for his first shout, Christy’s father was on call and watching out for him.
Speaking about why he volunteers for the RNLI Christy said: “It’s in my blood. Dad and his brother Liam were on the crew and we grew up hearing stories about the lifeboats.
“I couldn’t wait to join and from a very young age I was fundraising for the RNLI. I would always be hanging around the lifeboat station coming up with ideas to raise a few pounds for the lifeboat.
“I never met my uncle Liam but there is huge pride in my family that he was a lifeboat volunteer.’
‘I know it’s hard for my mum and my girlfriend when the pager goes off and we have to head out to sea in all types of conditions and are not sure what we will face when we get there.
“There is a strong family connection in Portrush RNLI, but it’s also been great to see new people coming on board too.
“The lifeboats are open to everyone. As I came from fundraising to lifeboat volunteer, I am all too aware that what we do is due to the generosity of the public. I’m on call over Christmas with the rest of the Portrush lifeboat crew and I know that gives people peace of mind.”
Another lifeboat family on call this Christmas is the Chambers family.
Lifeboat mechanic Anthony Chambers is forty years on the lifeboat and follows his father and grandfather before him.
His nephews Karl O’Neill and Jason Chambers are also onboard and there have been times where the three of them have all been out on the same shout.
Commenting on the family involvement in the RNLI, Karl said: “Ever since there has been an engine in a Portrush lifeboat there has been a Chambers on it.
“As soon as I got my driver’s license, Uncle Anthony was at the door with the application to become a crewmember.
“It’s all our family knows and wearing a lifeboat pager for me is as natural as wearing a watch. It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing or what time it is, when that pager goes off, we go.’
‘It’s lovely to have so many of my family involved with the RNLI but it’s also the mix of people involved in lifeboating that ensures that it will continue.
“As people move here and settle down it’s great to have them getting involved.
“Lifeboat volunteering is a community activity and is about giving something back to the area we live in and to the people who live here or visit our coastline. I am so grateful that the generosity of the public lets us provide this service and I’m proud that my family is involved with the RNLI.’
To support the RNLI’s Perfect Storm appeal this Christmas, helping to ensure the charity’s brave volunteers can continue saving lives at sea, please visit RNLI.org/ThePerfectStorm