|Joan Cunningham leads the Saintfield Christmas Charity Ride which included upwards of 180 riders along the town's Main Street. The event was to raise funds for under-privileged children in Uganda and Rwanda who live in an orphanage established and funded by Rock Ministries (NI) which is based in Coleraine. The Mwamba Children's Choir members who are in the province from Uganda followed the ride in horse drawn carriages.||The Mwamba Choir members with Alastair Mcllveen of North Down Marquees and Joan Cunningham who organised the Saintfield Christmas Charity Ride.|
THE Saintfield Christmas Charity Ride on Saturday brought the village to a standstill with upwards of 180 riders from two years of age to over 70 taking part.
Looking down the Main Street was a sea of red and white as the riders were dressed in Santa outfits and the horses were bedecked with festive accessories. It was an amazing spectacle for the locals who lined the street to welcome the members of the Mwamba Children's Choir from Uganda who were travelling in two carriages kindly supplied by George Fawcett. The children were also dressed in Santa outfits and they could not contain their excitement as they paraded the town and met up with Santa Claus (Sam Kerr) who had surprises in his sack for each of them. The children got out of the carriages in Main Street to sing Christmas carols before returning to Lisburn Road for lunch.
The event, which was organised for the third year running by Joan Cunningham, raises funds for under-privileged children in Uganda and Rwanda whose parents have been murdered or died of AIDS. The children now live in an orphanage established by Rock Children's Family, a project funded by Rock Ministries (N.I.) which is based in Coleraine.
Joan thanked all who supported her and as the last horsebox left the yard on Saturday she said: "It has been an absolutely wonderful day. I am totally indebted to everyone who gave their support and especially to Alastair Mcllveen of North Down Marquees who supplied this amazing marquee, without which the event would not have been such a huge success.
"It just made the day and the enormous crowd were able to be all together having lunch and enjoying the entertainment put on by the children of the Mwamba Choir. My sincere thanks also to Gordons Chemists, NFU Mutual in Saintfield, John Gibson of Sporting Images and his team, Ronnie Beggs, George Fawcett, Jackson's of Saintfield, Sam Kerr, Joe Crawford, Peter Murdock, Forest Feast and everyone who made donations, helped with the catering, parking, stewarding, the local police who escorted the riders, the media for the superb coverage and all the riders who came from far and near to give their support."
Terence McKeague was MC for the day and was his usual hilarious self joining in the dancing with the children.
Alastair Mcllveen was the appointed judge of the Best Dressed Santas and prizes together with beautiful plaques designed and made by John Gibson of Sporting Images were awarded to the best turned out Santas in various age categories and those who raised the most sponsorship.
Alastair sprung a surprise on Joan when he presented her with a prize for the most glamorous Santa!
He said: "Today is all about making a difference and about giving to others."
Ian Hasson of Rock Ministries thanked Joan, Alastair and everyone for their generosity and said the money raised would be used towards building a new orphanage, clinic and school on the land already purchased outside Kampala. He said the money raised last year by the people of Saintfield was used to sink a bore hole to provide fresh water.