STUDENTS at Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh Cailíní have taken on Cork firefighter Alex O’ Shea’s latest challenge to bring guide dog Rover around the world in 80 days.
With the help of a sponsorship from Fyffes, the primary school has taken on the challenge which sees Rover, a virtual guide dog, travel around across the globe with the help of the kilometres walked, cycled or jogged by the pupils.
The challenge aims to get Rover home to Ireland by 31 January, with all donations going towards Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind.
With other activities curtailed as a result of Covid-19, the school has taken on the challenge to keep active over Christmas.
“As a health-promoting school and having got our various green flags, we are always looking to get them out and about and obviously it is particularly difficult at the moment,” said Principal Clare O’ Sullivan.
According to fourth class teacher, Mairead Lonergan, having the opportunity to follow Rover’s daily online updates from different countries is a great motivator.
“We look it up every morning and we have a world map so we check in the morning what country he has made it to and we look up some facts about the county and it ties in nicely.”
The school has previously taken part in different challenges to raise money for the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind with Alex O’ Shea and one pupil, Aoife Cassidy is even fostering her own guide-dog-in-training, Zorro.
The challenge is the latest undertaking by Alex O’ Shea, who ran his first marathon in aid of Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind in 2014.
Having decided to take part in the Cork City Marathon in 2014, Alex set his mind to training and even decided to break a world record along the way- by running the marathon in his full firefighting gear.
“I trained hard and I just seemed to realise that I had an aptitude to run long distances and from there, people encouraged me and pointed out different events I could do,” said Alex.
“There was a bit of nervousness behind it all as well and I suppose for me, doing my first one in the fire gear,” he noted, “I went really big and if it worked, it was brilliant and if it didn’t, I had a lot of excuses ready.”
The first challenge did indeed “work” for Alex, who set the Guinness World Record for running the full 26.6-mile marathon in full firefighting gear.
His latest challenge has been derived from that initial love and buzz that came with completing his first marathon.
“I originally wanted to train people to run their first marathon because I know what a feeling it was for me to achieve that goal and I suppose everything I have done since has always been anchored on that first marathon.”
However, during lockdown and with the impact of Covid-19 becoming increasingly more obvious, Alex decided on a family-friendly motivator.
“Everyone was sick of lockdown and I had been working on the hope that I could do something with the Guide Dogs, and I have four kids myself who would come home from school and they weren’t in school for a period obviously, and so I wanted to motivate them and I wanted to motivate myself.
"So I said we could put this together and we will have one o’ clock updates from us and nine o'clock updates and people can turn into our news and see where Rover is and have a bit of positivity.”
With that concept, came Rover’s 'Around the World in 80 Days' challenge.
To take part, people aiming to keep active over Christmas make a one-time donation to the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind to follow Rover on his journey.
However, in order to take the pressure off parents at Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh Cailíní to donate money, Fyffes has agreed to sponsor the schools’ participation in the challenge.
So far, the well-travelled guide dog has climbed Mount Everest in Nepal, visited the Taj Mahal in India, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and he is expected to complete the 40,000km around the world by the end of January.
With almost €2,000 raised in the run-up to Christmas, the goal is to raise €5,000 for Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind.
The challenge aims to motivate and encourage people of all ages to get active and stay active through the Christmas period, and hopefully ignite a love for exercise and the completion of a challenge.
“We encourage [pupils] to be as active as they can and that isn’t always easy, especially in the wintertime … but now the whole school will have the opportunity to count their steps,” added Clare O’Sullivan.
“It’s going to motivate people, it’s going to help their physical and mental wellbeing,” added Alex.