Cork barber saddles up for 1000km cycle for charity

Jamie Kelly decided to take up cycling during the pandemic for mind and body — and now he tells CHRIS DUNNE how he is peddling to raise funds for an autism centre in Cork
Cork barber saddles up for 1000km cycle for charity

FUND-RAISING CHALLENGE: Jamie Kelly, his partner Natasha O’Leary and their son Alfie

BARBER Jamie Kelly isn’t taking any short-cuts in his quest to raise funds for the Rainbow Club — he is setting himself the challenge of cycling 1,000km during the month of April.

And his supporters aren’t coming up short either. The dad of one raised an incredible €1,000 the first day he took to the road on his bike.

“I’m blown away by the support,” says Jamie. 

“I couldn’t believe my €1,000 target was surpassed on the very first day I started out.”

Jamie is peddling away to help all the children on the autism spectrum to avail of the fantastic services that the Rainbow Cork Centre offers to them.

“Our little boy Alfie, who is three, is in the process of being assessed for autism,” says Jamie, whose partner is Natasha O’Leary.

“He is being assessed by the Sunflower Clinic and on the first day of my challenge he was called for further assessment by the HSE.”

Alfie is the apple of his parents’ eyes.

“He is a really lovable little chap, and is the happiest child in the world, but Alfie hasn’t reached all his milestones for his age and he doesn’t speak,” says Jamie, who works at the award-winning Asylum Barbershop in Parliament Street, Cork city.

“Alfie seems to display signs of having autism, ASD, even though he is well able to communicate and he is very intelligent,” says Jamie, who got on the saddle for a cause close to many hearts.

“Alife loves going to crèche, and loves routine. If we ever take a different route to his crèche in the morning, he’ll know about it. And so will I!”

Jamie took to the road to support all the children on the autism spectrum. Like his son; he likes to take the same route every day.

“Some days I do it backwards!” says Jamie, laughing.

“Through Ballincollig, down to the Regional Park, to the Lee Road, into town, down the Marina, past Blackrock Castle, to Rochestown, Douglas, Tramore Valley Park, Turner’s Cross, The Lough, and back home to Togher.”

How many kilometres does he clock up daily?

“I cycle between 40km and 45 km every day,” says Jamie.

His challenge has the advantage of a double-whammy.

“Helping raise funds for the Rainbow Club is getting me very fit!” says Jamie. “And it is really great for both my physical and mental health.”

It’s also really great for all the children who benefit from the work of the amazing 60 volunteers who run the Rainbow Club.

“Cases of autism seem to be higher,” says Jamie.

“There are a lot of children on the autism spectrum and the resources to get help can be difficult to access, with long waiting lists often up to two years.

“Going down the private route to get support can prove very expensive; up to €100 an hour. The huge expense can take its toll on families.”

The Rainbow Club is a professional autism service provider, supported by 60 volunteers with a mission to provide skills, support, and a community hub for children and young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families.

The Centre embraces the whole support system for the child, providing professional services like occupational therapy, and speech therapy, while also working towards educating and training parents, carers, and professionals to provide the best possible outcomes for their children.

“I’m doing the fundraising cycling challenge for Alfie and for all the little kids on the autism spectrum,” says Jamie.

Having gone through numerous tests and assessments with Alfie, Jamie and Natasha have found themselves reaching out to the Rainbow Club Cork Centre for Autism for support.

“April is Autism Awareness month and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to set myself the 1,000km cycling challenge to raise money for the Rainbow Club, to show our appreciation for all the great work they do.”

The Asylum Barbershop is closed due to Covid, and Jamie bought himself a bike during lockdown.

“I was out of work and I thought taking up cycling would give me a good routine,” he says.

He thought of something else worthwhile.

“I thought I’d start the cycling challenge for the Rainbow Club on April 2, it being Autism Awareness Month,” says Jamie.

He didn’t think the response to his kind gesture would be so massive.

After that initial €1,000 in the first day, by day seven there were funds of €2,100 in the kitty for the Rainbow Club.

“I couldn’t believe it!” says Jamie. “Every penny will help the Rainbow Club continue the wonderful work they do in Cork for children on the autism spectrum.”

Was he a cyclist prior to the pandemic striking the globe?

“Not at all!” says Jamie. “But you know, it’s great for the mind and for mental health.”

It’s great for overall fitness.

“That’s for sure,” says Jamie, who has been bitten by the cycling bug, enjoying spinning the wheels and watching the scenery whizz by.

“It’s great seeing all the different locations around Cork and some days a couple of my buddies join me cycling. That makes it even more enjoyable as a group.”

They are all in it together.

“And they are delighted to have the company and be involved in helping me complete the challenge during the month of April.”

What happens when the April showers rain down?

“I bought a stationary bike for the days I can’t get out in bad weather,” says Jamie, who has every eventuality well covered.

“That way, I won’t be missing out on any days. Finishing the challenge is looking good.”

Natasha and Alfie aren’t missing out on looking good either during lockdown.

“I can cut their hair at home!” says Jamie, laughing.

Natasha is fuelling Jamie with nutritious food for his mission.

“And she looks after Alfie while I’m out cycling for the Rainbow Club, Natasha is a great support to me.”

There are others in it too.

“My mother is great to help out too,” says Jamie. 

Will he keep peddling when he has completed his 1000km for the Rainbow Club and raised much more that €1,000?

“I think I’ll keep up the cycling, then I’ll be very fit going back to work!” says Jamie.

You can follow Jamie on Instagram and donate via his iDonate account.

ABOUT THE RAINBOW CLUB

The Rainbow Club, Cork Centre for Autism, Mahon Community Centre, Avenue De Rennes, Cork, is run entirely by volunteers, relying solely on fund-raising and donations.

A total of 62 volunteers give of their time freely to help run their club, which also uses services for qualified trained professionals who offer occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, play therapy and art therapy.

Children can develop social skills, taking part in a wide range of activities such as music groups, social groups, art therapy, speech and drama, art and crafts, parent support, siblings support, sports clubs (supplied by Cork Sports Partnership), teen boy and girl social groups.

www.rainbowclub.ie

Call: 086-0805810

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