Toledo Irish: The Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust
by Maury Collins
Some of you know that I work part time as a Family Support Person, for Newcomer Funeral Homes in Toledo. During the last week of September, Newcomer performed their services for a relatively young (55 years old) Irish immigrant. This person’s parents and siblings lived in County Armagh Ireland.
We received a call from Ireland about a service that I was not aware of, the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust. The propose of the Trust is to alleviate the financial hardship of bereaved families repatriating the body (bodies) of loved one(s) who have died abroad in sudden or tragic circumstances, back to Ireland.
Kevin Bell, from Newry, died in June in a hit-and-run accident in New York. The 26-year-old dancing champion and talented Gaelic player was one of seven children, including a twin brother.
“Kevin had been out, it was a Saturday night and he returned home at about half three in the morning, he got out of a taxi and a white van came speeding and struck him, drove on and then he was hit by a second car, but apparently he had been killed instantly,” his father Colin explained. “We were fortunate or God was good in that we didn’t get a cold call from America. Kevin had been out to a friends’, Sheamie Toner, and Sheamie rang his parents and then Vincent and Caroline came up and broke the news to us.”
Help bring home bodies of those who die abroad:
An August 29, 2015 article titled; “Irish Lives: Family helps bring home bodies of those who die abroad” by Mark Hilliard in The Irish Times explains how the Fund was started. To honor their son, the Bells set up a repatriation trust fund.
“I don’t know if it’s just an Irish thing [but] it was very important for us to get Kevin’s body home,” Bell says of the time. Thankfully, getting him back was relatively straightforward. The Bells had family in Manhattan and Kevin’s employers paid the bills.
“When Kevin was killed, my hometown in Newry went into a frenzy of fundraising to bring him home. They amassed an incredible amount of money, about £150,000, ($185,000),” Bell says. “We had this money and we decided that it was best used to help other families.”
Often families, desperate with grief, are unable emotionally or financially to cope with the process. The trust is regularly praised for its urgency and compassion. Those behind it ask for nothing in return and yet families are quick to fundraise. No State financing has been sought and the trust has no plans to seek any.
Many have said about the support Colin gives families while this is going on. They don’t know how they do it because it must bring back memories [of Kevin]. But that’s exactly why they do it. It helps them deal with it. “It’s Kevin’s legacy. It gives us a bit of comfort that some good has come out of his death. And we will continue to do it.”
Since June 16th 2013, the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust (KBRT) have now repatriated 797 loved ones to their families in Ireland from countries worldwide, such as Australia, Argentina, South Korea, USA, Canada, Ecuador, Cambodia, India, and Uganda, to name just a few. The Trust repatriates approximately 10-15 loved ones back to Ireland per month.
The Trust operates on a 32-county basis for all sides of the community, creed, color and circumstances of death. There has been repatriation to all 32-counties of Ireland from forty-one different countries. Costs per repatriation can rise up to $15,000, depending on the circumstances of the death, local charges and hospital release costs.
Conditions of the Trust Awarding Financial Assistance:
The Trust is available for costs of repatriation to Ireland only. Financial assistance to be offered in circumstances of sudden or tragic death (including suicide). Financial assistance to be paid upon confirmation of paid expenditure. Financial assistance to be paid for repatriation costs exclusively.
The Trust is to operate on a 32-County basis. The Trust is to have a discretionary clause to cover unforeseen circumstances where it may wish to provide additional financial assistance. The Trust would grant assistance in good faith.
A ‘claw-back’ option applies in the event of the applicant raising sufficient funds themselves to return the money back to the Trust. In 2016/17 KBRT were the GAA’s official charity and also the official charity for Cork International Airport and Belfast International Airport.
Donations are accepted online, including through Paypal. If you would like information about donating to this wonderful cause, go to: https://kevinbellrepatriationtrust.com/