Skip to main content

Keith Duffy honours autism charity founder with National Lottery Award

27th October 2023

A mother who founded an autism charity after her son lost his life to suicide has been honoured with a National Lottery Award.

Julia McKeever being awarded her trophy by Keith Duffy.
Julia McKeever and Boyzone star, Keith Duffy.

Julia McKeever, from Portadown, set up The Autism Hive after her son, Luke O’Hara, took his own life.

Suicide is regarded as one of the leading causes of death for people with autism and The Autism Hive provides suicide prevention measures, intervention and post-intervention support for those with the condition and their families.

Julia set up the initiative in 2022, a year after the tragic death of Luke, who was just 25 at the time of his death.

Now she has been recognised as the Community/Charity winner in the 2023 National Lottery Awards, which recognises the inspirational people and projects who do extraordinary things with the help of National Lottery funding.

Former Boyzone and Coronation Street star Keith Duffy travelled to Portadown to present Julia with her National Lottery Awards trophy.

Keith has been fundraising for autism for more than 20 years through the Keith Duffy Foundation and has worked to help raise awareness for children with autism since his daughter Mia was first diagnosed with the condition at the age of 18 months.

He said: “It is an incredible honour to present Julia with a National Lottery Award; she is such an amazing and inspiring person. It is remarkable that she has been able to overcome such adversity and channel her grief into a fantastic project which provides so much support to those with autism and their families.

Keith Duffy and Julia McKeever holding photoframe of Julia's late son, Luke.
Keith Duffy and Julia McKeever holding photoframe of Julia's late son, Luke.

“This cause is very personal to me, given the work of my Keith Duffy Foundation which is on a mission to make a meaningful difference in the lives of children and young adults affected by autism. It is truly disheartening how many families affected by autism are not receiving the appropriate support, guidance, intervention and education they desperately need. We need to change that.

“Julia is a thoroughly deserving winner of a National Lottery Award and National Lottery players, who raise £30 million every week for good causes like The Autism Hive, can be very proud in the role they have played in funding this wonderful woman and her organisation.”

Julia added: “I am thrilled to have won this award not just for me and the team at The Autism Hive but for the legacy of my son Luke and other families who have had to go through the loss of a loved one.

“National Lottery funding has been vital to our charity allowing us to provide vital training to help support autistic people in crisis. It has helped us help others and I am very grateful for this support.”

Keith Duffy awarding our Community & Charity winner, Julia McKeever, with her award.
Keith Duffy awarding our Community & Charity winner, Julia McKeever, with her award.

This year more than 3,700 people and projects were nominated for a National Lottery Awards.

In addition to a National Lottery Awards trophy, all winners will receive a £5,000 cash prize for their organisation.

Earlier this year, The Autism Hive received National Lottery funding of £6,176 from The National Lottery Community Fund to develop a ‘Train the Trainer’ course focusing on suicide awareness for supporting an autistic person in crisis.