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Sisters on top of the world

SCARIFF sisters, Joanne Treacy and Kate (Treacy) O’Donoghue recently climbed Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, in aid of Raheen Hospital Support Services Ltd.

Joanne is currently living and working in London and Kate is living in Clane, County Kildare, but both are originally from Cooleenbridge, Scariff, and their native parish is still very close to their hearts. This is why they chose to do the climb in aid of Raheen Hospital. So far, the siblings have raised nearly €1,000.

They climbed Kilimanjaro through hail, rain, snow and shine over six days, reaching the summit on the morning of September 6.
Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa and also the highest freestanding peak in the world. The Scariff sisters trekked the 64km up and down, a distance that equates to summiting Carrauntoohill six times over.

Speaking about why they chose to raise funds for Raheen Hospital Support Services Ltd, Kate Treacy said, “The charity we have chosen is very close to us and our family’s heart. Raheen is only Semi-State-funded so is hugely dependent on donations. With all the bad press nursing homes seem to get these days, I am proud to say we have one on our doorstep that is a bright, cheery, stimulating home, where patient care is number one and dignity and respect are absolutely paramount.”

The sisters chose the hospital, as they were conscious that the community facility is preparing to undergo a significant expansion to add more single rooms and would be in need of funding. “It was top of our minds as we hiked our little hearts out and battled the joys of the altitude at 5,895 metres,” Kate said.

Speaking to The Clare Champion, Joanne said their reason for embarking on this journey was twofold.

“Kilimanjaro is a very personal challenge in one way. It’s one of those things that if you can overcome that, you can apply it to other elements of your life and get the feeling that you can pretty much do anything. That was a driver. It was also important for both of us to push ourselves out of our comfort zones. The charity element was another component. When we were doing it, we wanted to do it for something useful,” she said.

The Treacy family have a long connection with Raheen Hospital. Joanne and Kate’s mother started working there as a midwife when it opened and now she is a regular visitor at the day centre. The sisters also had an aunt, who was a resident there for four years. They decided if they were going to raise funds, Raheen Hospital deserved to benefit from it.

Joanne had done a little bit of climbing before beginning to train for the climb but Kate had done very little and so the two initially took on Carrauntoohil in preparation. Kate went on to climb Lugnaquilla in Wicklow, before they made the giant leap forward to Kilimanjaro.

“It’s pretty high and, once you start to get over 4,000 feet, the altitude starts to kick in and that has an impact on you. You definitely know you have to do things an awful lot slower. The headaches kick in, it’s great,” she laughed.

Despite coping with the altitude, Joanne said it was an amazing experience.

“It was absolutely fantastic, it is an incredible place. We had pretty terrible weather for the first few days beforehand, so we didn’t fully appreciate where we were until we really started summiting up there. It was very cold and you are sleep-deprived and you have the altitude but, once you start to reach the top, the view is just breathtaking. You’re in the gods and you’re looking down on a sea of clouds and it is pretty incredible. We had a stunning sunrise the morning before the summit and, thank God, because it brought a bit of heat. It was like a lifeline, that sunrise,” Joanne explained.

The two climbed in a group of eight Irish climbers and were led by Pat Falvy.

Now that the climb is over, Joanne has certainly caught the bug and says she is not planning to retire from hiking just yet.
“I don’t think I’ll be hanging up the boots. It gets kind of addictive and there are a few more out there. It is a great way to see the world and, if you can do something challenging while you’re there, it’s amazing,” she concluded.

Donations can be made by logging on to www.JustGiving.com and searching for Raheen Hospital Support Services.

Carol Byrne

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