The business community has been shocked to learn of the sudden death of Jack Rodgers MBE, the founder and chairman of the Northern Ireland Children to Lapland and Days to Remember Trust (NICLT).
Mr. Rodgers passed away yesterday (Wednesday) surrounded by his family, after a short illness.
Trustee Colin Barkley said: “Jack was determined that Northern Ireland should have a dedicated charity to help local children and so NICLT was born.
The concept was and remains very simple, it is to give terminally ill, life-limited and deserving children’ the trip of a lifetime, to meet Santa Claus, at his home in Lapland, in the run-up to Christmas.
“In December, the charity made its 10th annual trip to Lapland, chartering its now customary 220 seater aircraft.
“In the last decade, 1,000 local children have now enjoyed this incredible experience with every aspect of the trip funded through the charity - from flights, food and drink, reindeer, husky and skidoo rides right through to presents for every child and meeting the man himself, Santa Claus.
“Thanks to Jack’s drive, energy and total commitment, the remit of the Trust has expanded, to incorporate ‘Days to Remember’. Several trips to Disneyland in Paris have generated similar levels of excitement, exhilaration and sheer joy to that of the Lapland experience.
“Jack has been the driving force throughout, using his business acumen and contacts to drive the fundraising forward. His ideas have included the now annual ‘Walk to Scotland’, where, with the not insignificant support of Stena Line, our intrepid supporters, all duly sponsored, walk around and around the boat on one of its daily trips between Belfast and Cairnryan to be rewarded with a meal on board and a party and cabaret on the return journey and raising tens of thousands of pounds in the process. Jack has also planned a ramble on Rathlin for later this summer.
“Over the last 10 years, the reputation of the Lapland Trust (as it is more commonly known) has grown considerably and its fundraising base has significantly widened and must continue to do so.
“Regrettably, there are so many children in Northern Ireland who fall within the charity’s remit and we owe it to them and to Jack’s memory to ensure that the charity continues to thrive.
“The Trust became a huge part of Jack’s life, some would say that “just about his every waking hour was devoted to it.
“The award, by the Queen, of an MBE, in the 2012 Honours List was the tangible reward for his commitment to the charity and, indeed, to many charities over the last 40 years but the beaming smiles on the faces of literally hundreds of kids and the precious memories these trips have created for their families will be his lasting legacy.”
The 11th annual trip to Lapland is scheduled to take place in December.
Colin said that although Jack will not physically be there, “his presence will be keenly felt that day and, in the years, to come. Jack Rodgers, we thank you for everything.”
His family says that anyone who may wish to pay tribute to Jack is welcome to attend his memorial service on Saturday March 30, in Whiteabbey Presbyterian Church, at 12.00 pm.