Cork man hopes to make a real difference to the lives of families using the country's children's hospice

Douglas student Conor O’Driscoll will lead a team of 20 from UCC up High Atlas Mountain in Morocco this summer in aid of the LauraLynn children’s hospice, writes CHRIS DUNNE
Cork man hopes to make a real difference to the lives of families using the country's children's hospice
RAISING RUNDS: Conor O'Driscoll, centre, a UCC Environmental Science students, will hike up Atlas Mountain in Morocco, with 20 fellow studetns in aid of LauraLynn. From left; Jamie Cross, Lana Merkusheva, Conor O'Driscoll, Alex Murphy and Cliona Collins.

IT is not every day you meet a young man who has scaled Everest Base Camp and who is planning to undertake a Herculean trek, leading a team of 20 across the unforgiving Atlas Mountains trail for Ireland’s only children’s hospice.

But then, Conor O’Driscoll is not your everyday hero.

“Because LauraLynn relies on the public for fund-raising and donations for 95% of it’s funding, and because the charity has no direct funding from the Government, I feel it is a really worthy cause to support,” says Conor, 28, from Douglas, who has an older brother, Darragh, and a younger sister, Orla, and who is a final year student in UCC studying Environmental Science.

He has undertaken heroic treks before for causes close to his heart.

“I’ve gone on a similar fund-raising trip to Everest Base Camp,” says Conor, who is an experienced hiker.

“We raised vital funds for the Meningitis Research Fund. The team then ascended to a height of 800m climbing Everest Base Camp,” says Conor, who has a head for heights.

“In Morocco, scaling the Atlas Mountains, we’ll be reaching 1,000m a day in temperatures of 35 degrees. This trek is more challenging.”

He knows what’s before him.

“On Everest, everyone lost a fair bit of weight because you’re expending a lot of calories. In Morocco we’ll be facing hotter temperatures. At night it will get cold. Staying hydrated is very important. Drinking up to nine litres of water a day is essential.

“We’ll carry enough water for four or five hours before refuelling.”

There will be some weight resting on his shoulders.

“After four or five days of hiking, you really feel it on your shoulders, carrying the bag on your back the whole time,” says Conor.

“And the heat becomes exhausting. The guides are walking alongside us for six days and their donkeys will carry supplies of food and water. There are two days where we’ll be ascending more than 1000m a day, which is significant.”

Will that be scary?

“We’re preparing well and putting in the time to be ready for the high altitude conditions,” says Conor, who is a keen mountaineer.

“Over the next few months, as the weather improves and the days get longer, we’ll get more hiking practice done in Cork and in Kerry. Up to now a lot of our training was in the gym getting fit for the trip.”

A group of students from Limerick University are undertaking the Moroccan expedition as well.

The determined team of 20 trekkers from UCC are committed to the cause. Conor and the team have put in months of preparation ahead of their arduous task.

The gruelling conditions of searing heat by day and plummeting temperatures by night means that the team will carry cold weather clothing and they will have to camp in bitterly cold conditions. But Conor and the team of UCC students are determined that they will be good to go this summer.

Conor O'Driscoll from Douglas who is planning to undertake a Herculean trek, leading a team of 20, across the unforgiving Atlas Mountains trail for Ireland’s only children’s hospice, LauraLynn.Top row L-R: Judy Murphy, Conor O Driscoll, Donna Colbourne, Alex Murphy, Con Broderick. Bottom row : Tiernan McKeown.
Conor O'Driscoll from Douglas who is planning to undertake a Herculean trek, leading a team of 20, across the unforgiving Atlas Mountains trail for Ireland’s only children’s hospice, LauraLynn.Top row L-R: Judy Murphy, Conor O Driscoll, Donna Colbourne, Alex Murphy, Con Broderick. Bottom row : Tiernan McKeown.

They will leave for Morocco on June 19 for the six day climb.

“There’s a bit of juggling to be done because of the final year in college, and there’s a little extra pressure,” says Conor.

“Everyone is confident ahead of the trip and they are happy to put in the required effort to support the children’s hospice.

“We hope to reach the highest summit of 4,160m on the peak of the Atlas Mountains.”

So, no pressure then?

Conor laughs.

“Everyone is very supportive. The response to our fund-raising drive is brilliant,” he adds.

“UCC students are doing bag-packing days and bucket collections leading up to our trip to Morocco to help boost our fund-raising efforts for LauraLynn, which offers children with life-limiting conditions and their families such essential service when they need it most.”

EVERY FUND-RAISER HELPS

LauraLynn appreciates the wonderful support that it gets from people around the country, like Conor, who go that extra mile to help critically ill children and their families.

CEO of LauraLynn, Cork woman Orla O’Brien said: “It is fantastic that throughout the year so any people partake in fund-raising events, from running the mini-marathon to holding cake sales and raffles, to ensure we can meet the cost of providing healthcare support and palliative care services to children with life-limiting conditions and their families.

“We began this year with a fund-raising target of €4.6 million, which is required to provide care to even more children with life-limiting conditions and their families when they need it most.

“We know it is a huge undertaking by our LauraLynn families, supporters, donors, volunteers and employees to fund-raise on our behalf every year.

“I want them to know that their efforts are making a real difference to many, many families around the country.”

WHO DOES LAURALYNN SUPPORT?

Sam is an 11-year-old boy, he has a rare genetic condition causing a range of symptoms that result in him needing round the clock care.

He is one of almost 170 children availing of LauraLynn and he has attended the service for four years.

Sam’s mother has a heart-felt message for Conor and for other everyday heroes like him who make a difference to her child’s life.

“I don’t know if you will ever understand just what a difference your donation, big or small, has made to Sam and to our lives,” says Therese.

“Some days can seem hopeless, some days can be good and then there are LauraLynn days. Then we know there is hope.”

The day Conor takes off for the Atlas Mountains, along with his team, he will know that days like that only come around very seldom going through life. But he also knows days like that will make a massive difference to people like Sam and his mother, Therese.

MORE ABOUT LAURALYNN

LauraLynn provides a range of services including symptom management for children; music and play therapy, psychological support, family and sibling camps, short breaks and end of life care.

Care can be availed of in the purpose-built eight-bed hospice in Leopardstown, a hospital in the community, or in the family home, depending on the location and medical needs of the child and family’s preference.

It provides vital bereavement supports to families after they have lost a child. It undertakes research into the relatively new area of children’s palliative care.

It costs more than €5 million to keep the LauraLynn’s Children’s Hospice open — €4.6 million of which must be generated through fund-raising income.

Since opening in 2011, LauraLynn has cared for more than 420 children and their families, with 230 families currently availing of their care and support.

To donate visit: lauralynn.ie/donate

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