THE founder of a Cork charity bringing seriously ill children to Disneyland said that it may be years before they can facilitate holidays abroad again.
Deserving kids who had all suffered serious illness or trauma were due to travel to Disneyland, Paris this October with the Cork City Hospitals Children's Club.
Now, its founder John Looney said it could be years before they are able to travel abroad again due to Covid-19 restrictions.
For a number of families with kids suffering from degenerative illnesses, this would have been their last chance for a family holiday together.
A large number of volunteers who make up the charity are frontline workers and include GPs, nurses and other hospital staff which Mr Looney said now poses an added risk.
"When you're putting frontline workers and children with serious illnesses in the one bag, it's just not a good mix," Mr Looney explained.
"Everyone has their bags packed with nowhere to go.
"As it stands, we are stuck in no man's land. For a number of kids, this was a chance to travel with their family while they were still well enough to do so.
"It's going to be disappointing for families. We've been organising these trips for 25 years. At the same time, we have to look after one another.
"Children come first and that's the way it's always been.
"We've never taken any chances with the children and that's the way it's always been within the club.
"I can't see any mother leaving their child go away during such a dangerous time."
He has urged hotels across the country to get in touch with them so they can offer the families they support staycations instead.
"If people aren't depressed and lonely in these circumstances then they never will be.
"It's bad enough for the adults who are going through this, but what about the children?
"From what we can see they have been brilliant but it must have been so tough.
"We'd also like to reach out to the parents that travelled with us whose children are no longer with us.
"They deserve a break too and we want them to know that they are always in our thoughts."
Mr Looney called on the support of the public to help secure the charity's future.
"Everything was booked. It wasn't about the money. We will get a refund and put the money towards the next trip."
The former Cork Person of the Year hopes that the charity will come back from the pandemic stronger.
"We will fight this virus and when it has lifted we will have our bags packed and be ready to go.
"Fundraising may have stopped for now and that is worrying but we don't want to end this charity over money."
The Cork man lamented the fact that their Christmas event, which runs every December, won't be an option this year, "Santa Claus is a no go as far as social distancing is concerned. How could you bring a child to see Santa Claus in this climate?
"I can't see him wearing PPE gear or having his suit sterilised between each child's visit. It just doesn't seem realistic. We have €7,000 worth of Christmas decorations that will have to be thrown out because we can't take any chances."
Hotels interested in donating a staycation for a family supported by the Cork City Hospitals Children's Club can contact the group on Facebook.