EMERGENCY services in East Clare have united to spearhead a fundraiser initiated by former RTE broadcaster Charlie Bird.
The former news reporter has been hailed as an “inspiration” as despite his personal battle with Motor Neurone disease he will climb Croagh Patrick on Sunday, April 3.
His heart-rending Late Late interview has been cited by some of the local blue light emergency representatives who are supporting his courageous fund raising drive by climbing 1,745 feet to Moylussa a few miles from Killaloe, starting at 11am on April 3.
Members of An Garda Siochána, the Clare Fire and Rescue Service, Killaloe Coast Guard and the National Ambulance Service are all supporting the “Climb for Charlie”.
Suggested donations are €10 per person or €25 per family. All proceeds from the Croagh Patrick Climb and other associated events will be split between the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association (IMNDA) and Pieta House.
Kieran Ruane, who is a member of An Garda Siochána, said gardaí have an in-depth understanding of all the mental health issues that have arisen during the Covid-19 pandemic since March 2020.
Dublin-born and Galway-reared, Mr Ruane, who has lived in Ballina for the last 20 years, has personal experience of the devastating impact of Motor Neurone disease.
In 2011, his mother, Christina, (70) died from this condition, which was difficult to watch as she slowly lost the use of her vital organs.
“I couldn’t speak highly enough of the supports that IMNDA provided to me and my siblings as we cared for our mother. In the end, the only thing that worked for her was her eyes.
“I hadn’t seen serious illness close to me until I saw Motor Neurone disease. It is probably one of the more severe diseases, which is distressing to watch.”
“Motor Neurone is a disconnect between our brain and our motor sensors where each organ shuts down step by step. There are about 300 people who have Motor Neurone disease at any particular time and it takes people away in about three years.”
Like Charlie Bird, Christina lost the full use of her voice shortly after the onset of the disease.
“It is horrendous to lose your voice. If you go through a day or two without speaking, you will realise how difficult this is.
“For someone who was leading the way in news and media for so long, to lose what was the tool of his trade, we can’t appreciate what Charlie Bird is going through.
“Unfortunately, other organs that Charlie has will shut down. They talk about the five stages of grief. Charlie will go through that.
“It is horrendous to watch. Charlie is an inspiration to everyone. Anyone who watched him and his partner speak on the Late Late Show that night were holding back the tears.
“It is an incredible gesture by Charlie that hopefully his climb will raise a few million euro throughout the country for these two charities, which will be a fantastic legacy for him to leave behind.
“We applaud Charlie for the courage he has shown. We will be thinking of him as well as people who have Motor Neurone disease and those with mental health issues as we climb Moylussa.”
Mr Ruane appealed to people living in Ballina, Killaloe, O’Briensbridge, Scariff and Tulla to participate in the Moylussa climb or portion of the ascent.
He said it is great to see the local community coming together to climb a mountain to support well being. It is hoped that a few hundred people will converge on the day to participate in this fundraiser.
Participants are advised to meet in Ballycuggeran car park at 10am for a cup of tea, with the aim of starting the climb at 11am. Refreshments will also be provided after the climb.
Killaloe Coast Guard officer in charge, Damian Quigley, confirmed a few members will be stationed at certain vantage points to provide any assistance to walkers along the route, while others from the unit will participate in the climb.
“The Coast Guard are delighted to be involved in this good cause. It is brilliant all the local emergency services are working together to support this event.
“Watching Charlie Bird speak on the Late Late Show, I found it was very moving. I know a few people who had Motor Neurone disease so it is personal for me.
“The more support we can get for this fundraiser the better. I would be urging people to participate in this climb or to contribute. Hopefully, most of the community will come together for a good cause.”
Paramedic, Dave Hennelly is one of the co-ordinators from the National Ambulance Service, who is encouraging his colleagues from the Mid-West to get involved.
Mr Hennelly hopes there will be a good attendance from paramedics who are based in Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary.
“A lot of paramedics would have helped Motor Neurone patients during different stages of their care. Some paramedics may also have family members with this disease.
“When this was mentioned to paramedics, there was a very broad interest in it. It is very unfortunate for Charlie Bird to get this disease. His interview on the Late Late Show and his high profile has brought this disease to the forefront.
“A lot of people want to support this in any way they can.”
Killaloe Fire Station officer, Graham Tuohy, said a number of unit members would be participating, apart from what is required to have one crew on standby for any emergency call out.
“Watching Charlie Bird on the Late Late Show would bring tears from a stone. It was a very emotional interview. Anyone can get this devastating condition.
“A former work colleague in a different line of work got Motor Neurone in 2016. The deterioration in his condition would stun you. It is very debilitating. Even over a short space, there was a noticeable difference in his movement.”