Couple who met volunteering with Team Hope make donating shoeboxes their family tradition
A story straight from a Hallmark movie.
Team Hope came together in 2010 with the goal of helping disadvantaged children overseas.
Since then thousands of Irish people have joined their cause, helping to put together Christmas shoeboxes filled with gifts and essentials for children in disadvantaged areas.
Among those who volunteer for Team Hope is husband and wife duo, Ronan and Jill, who actually met while taking part in the Team Hope shoebox initiative.
Recently, we spoke to Jill about how she and Ronan first heard of Team Hope and became involved with the charity.
"Ten years ago my now husband Ronan was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and suffered a stroke at the age of 30.
While in recovery he was encouraged by his mother to volunteer at a Team Hope distribution centre.
He's very social and while he was helping to sort boxes he got chatting to another volunteer and they realised that they both knew me.
Ronan was like 'oh yeah but Jill's in America now and she's married' and my friend was like 'no she's not, she's back in Ireland and living with her parents'.
Ronan and I had gone to school and college together and after having the conversation with my friend he got back in touch with me and we arranged to meet up.
We soon started dating, got engaged and we actually got married the following September. We had dated in the past as well and I think Ronan's near death experience he figured he better seal the deal this time."
Since getting married in September 2014, Ronan and Gill have had two boys, aged three years and eight months and Team Hope has become their Christmas family tradition.
Jill even expanded it into her work life as well by bringing shoeboxes and wrapping paper into the nursing home she was working in for people to fill.
Both sides of the family are heavily involved in the Team Hope shoebox appeal, with their eldest son referring to the sorting centre as "The Shoebox Kingdom." The only years Jill hasn't been sorting boxes at the centre is when she has been heavily pregnant and her mother had banned her from being on her feet for too long.
"It's gas looking at photos of us at the sorting centre over the years from us being just married, to having our first born to the last photo I'm in I look huge, I look ready to pop."
Not only does Jill say that she loves taking part in the Team Hope appeal as a family Christmas tradition, but also because she thinks it's an incredible cause.
In particular Jill was struck by a story she heard when a family member visited an area where shoeboxes were handed out a few months previous to their visit.
A young boy shared a tissue with her, from a pack that was unopened - a gift in a shoebox, which Jill says shows how cherished something so small is.
Jill believes that there is “more value than we realise" in the shoeboxes.
Unfortunately Jill and Ronan will not be taking as much of a hands on approach this year due to Covid and social distancing rules.
These new rules also means that the Team Hope shoebox appeal will be different too, with the entire shoebox campaign taking place online, so you can get involved from the comfort of your own home.
Anyone wishing to get involved with the shoebox appeal can fill a virtual shoebox online for €20, which will then be sent directly to a child in need.
You can build your own virtual box for this year's Team Hope drive through their website here.