Players from Bangor Rugby Club will be braving the winter chill next Friday, December 17th, by performing ‘topless tunes’ at Ulster Rugby’s Kingspan Stadium to raise funds for local charity Extern’s Safe Haven Christmas Appeal.

The hardy boys will be singing carols and festive tunes at Ulster’s match against Northampton Saints, to encourage fans to donate sporting items for young people who may be spending the festive season at one of Extern’s four respite centres across Ireland.

The singers will also be performing in public in Belfast’s Cornmarket over the next two Sundays to raise vital funds from Christmas shoppers in the city centre.

Kinnahalla Youth Village, in Co Down; Roscor Youth Village, in Co Fermanagh; Savannah House in Co Kildare; and The Haven in Co Roscommon support children who are at risk from domestic violence or abuse, or who have nowhere to live due to a family breakdown or emergency. Together, the sites offer a total of almost 5,000 overnight stays to young people every year.

Extern and its charity partner Ulster Rugby are encouraging supporters to offer the ‘Gift of Sport’ by donating items of sportswear or sporting equipment. These will ensure that children staying at the Safe Havens will benefit from the power of sport to change lives.

Statistics* have shown that over 23,000 children in Northern Ireland were known to Social Services as a child in need by March of this year, while over 32,000 children were referred to Social Services during 2020/21.

Lucy** is just one of the many young people who have been helped by Extern over the past year. She said: “Staying at one of Extern’s Safe Havens gave me a break from what was going on at home. It helped me see that life could be brighter because I was made to feel important, and that I mattered.

I could have a bed to sleep in and my own bedroom. I could go to sleep, and stay asleep because I didn’t have to be afraid. I would encourage anyone to think of me and support the Extern Safe Haven Appeal. The difference you can make in a child’s life in getting them to believe in themselves is priceless.”

Bangor RFC President Ricky Armstrong said: “Now in our ninth season of topless carol singing we were only too delighted to have Extern as our chosen charity for this year. They do brilliant work and we hope the funds we raise over the next few weeks can help towards the vital work that they do.”

Grace O’Neill, Fundraising Manager for Extern, said: “We are delighted that Bangor Rugby Football Club has chosen to support Extern’s Christmas Appeal and want to thank everyone who is braving the cold this December to raise funds for our Safe Havens. Your efforts will help us offer children in crisis the little extras which will make their stay at one of Safe Havens really special.”

Donations to the Safe Haven Christmas Appeal can be made through www.extern.org and by following @ExternCharity via social media.