Conor Clohessy looks ahead to the Tour De Munster passing through Clare next week
DOWN Syndrome Ireland will be looking forward to having its 21st Annual Tour De Munster cycle fundraiser from August 5 to 8, having already raised a staggering €3 million since 2010 for the Munster branches of the charity alone.
Because this year is different and the usual avenues for fundraising locally, such as collecting money in buckets, is far more difficult, the Clare branch of Down Syndrome Ireland has created a raffle in conjunction with the Tour De Munster to help them in their efforts.
The prize of the raffle is a Corratec Dolomiti racing bike worth €1,600, donated by the family-run triathlon shop Planet-Tri, and within the first 24 hours the raffle had raised over €1,000.
Treasurer for the Clare DSI branch Laura Cahir said: “The shop is very good for community involvement, always doing work for different charities.
“Last year we had a donation page, which was very well received, but this year we wanted to give something back to those who donated.”
Members of the Clare branch will also be collecting donations through sponsorship cards, but Laura emphasised that the contribution of Tour De Munster has made a huge difference to the charity in paying almost all of its bills since making the Munster section of Down Syndrome Ireland their sole beneficiary in 2010.
The activities that the Tour De Munster help DSI to fund include Christmas parties, occupational therapy, swimming lessons and any additional support for parents who need support with their children as they grow up and develop with Down Syndrome.
DSI Clare has 80 members at the moment, and Laura stressed that each and every one is dedicated to improving conditions not only for themselves and their children, but for each other as well, and those parents and children who have yet to join.
“We had a call recently from a woman in Clare who has found out she is expecting a baby with Down Syndrome, and it was great to hear that she could just pick up the phone and tell us that she was worried she didn’t know what was ahead of her.
“We can put her in touch with other parents from there, and she will quickly find that we were all the exact same as her at some point.”
The Clare branch’s reassuring reputation has made it so that parents expecting children with Down Syndrome are directed towards them by hospitals, and Laura explained that sometimes it takes a few weeks for parents to come to terms with being in a situation they did not expect before they contact the branch.
It is understandable, she said, for someone to try to avoid dealing with something they do not want to think about and emphasised that sometimes it is better to talk to someone new, with experience in raising a child with Down Syndrome, rather than depend on family and friends without that first-hand knowledge.
DSI also sends information to schools on World Down Syndrome Day in March, to ensure that children growing up in the new generation understand what the condition is and how little it should affect how they treat their classmates with Down Syndrome.
Laura said: “There has been an awful stigma around Down Syndrome for years, and I find people are still shocked by my son Matthew (6) when he goes up and talks to them, with more confidence than a lot of kids his age.
“I knew nobody with Down Syndrome before Matthew, but when you have met so many people at all different ages with Down Syndrome, you find they are just as capable as anyone else, and it’s great to be able to make people aware of that.”