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Tulla students raise Barretstown funds in memory of Labhaoise

SCHOOLMATES of the late Tulla teenager, Labhaoise Fitzgerald, have raised €10,000 for one of her favourite charities, Barretstown.
The 17-year-old passed away in January after a six-year battle with an aggressive brain tumour.
The pandemic restrictions in place at the time of Labhaoise’s passing meant fellow students at St Joseph’s Secondary School were unable to fully pay their respects to someone who was hugely popular and highly regarded.
When they returned to school in March, they set about a virtual mountain climb in her memory and to support a charity for which Labhaoise was a passionate advocate right up to her final days.
“The whole school was involved and really wanted to carry on Labhaoise’s message,” explained class teacher, Donna Fitzgerald.
“We set a target of €3,000 and it’s an incredible feeling to have raised more than three times that. Different classes and the staff chose a mountain and had to clock up the steps it would take to climb it. The Leaving Certs had Kilimanjaro and the fifth years had Mount Everest, for example.”
Barretstown was an obvious choice of beneficiary for the school’s fundraising efforts and the project is one that tied in well to the school’s ethos.
“We are a CEIST school and have a Catholic ethos, so we are regularly involved in charity activities,” explained Donna.
“We knew what Barretstown meant to Labhaoise and how involved she was in it.”
In April of 2020, as part of a ‘Virtual Hug’ fundraising initiative, Labhaoise told The Champion about the importance of the children’s camp and activities at Barretstown.
At her funeral, her mum Louise spoke of how, even after losing her sight, Labhaoise continued to take part in Zoom meetings with her peers on Barretstown’s Youth Leader’s Council.
“Labhaoise’s memory will help to give others a childhood,” Donna said.
“When she was there, she didn’t think about her illness and she could be herself. People were delighted to support Barretstown through this fundraiser because they know what it meant to her.”
The process of raising funds also provided an opportunity to remember Labhaoise and to come to terms with her loss.
“Labhaoise’s passing left a big hole in the community and because of the restrictions, I think students really struggled to come to cope with it,” said Donna.
“While they were taking part in the fundraiser, they’ve been talking a lot about her. They’ve had a chance to deal with some of the unfairness and their feelings of anger.
“They’ve also been able to celebrate her in a practical way too. Fundraising in her name has been so positive. It’s great that the money raised will go to children that Labhaoise knew while she was at Barrettstown herself.”
Labhaoise’s courage and determination had been honoured during her lifetime by her peers at St Joseph’s, where she won a Bravery Award.
“She received a standing ovation at the presentation,” Donna recalled. “There were over 300 people there, back in 2019 and it was fantastic to have her friends and family there.
“We also nominated Labhaoise for a Garda Youth Award which she won and which she really deserved.
“You would never know that she had such a struggle with her illness. She was always smiling. It was uplifting to be around her. She was such an important part of the school community.”

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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