SEVERAL Cork groups and voluntary organisations will participate in the Climb with Charlie project tomorrow, in aid of the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and Pieta House, Ireland’s national suicide prevention charity.
Well-known media personality Charlie Bird, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease last year, is scheduled to climb Croagh Patrick, along with his family and close friends, on Saturday to raise funds for the two charities, which are very close to his heart.
The journalist and broadcaster is determined to achieve his goal of climbing Croagh Patrick to highlight the serious challenges people have to overcome in their everyday personal lives due to severe illness, both physical and mental.
The campaign organisers have encouraged groups from all over Ireland and overseas to get involved in the project and arrange climbs in their local areas this Saturday.
All the money raised from the event will go to the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and Pieta House.
The climb has received huge support, with thousands of groups all over the country signing up to take part in the fundraising event.
A tweet from Charlie on Monday, March 28, revealed that the event had already raised €750,000 for the two charities.
Cork community groups have rallied to the cause in support of Charlie and the two charities for which he is raising funds. In a strong sense of solidarity, they have embraced the challenge from the campaign organisers for local voluntary organisations to participate in Saturday’s event.
Charlie Bird, who worked for many years as chief news correspondent with RTÉ, has very strong links with Macroom. His grandfather hailed from the Cork town and Charlie was a regular visitor to the area.
Indeed he served as a grand marshal in a St Patrick’s Day parade in the town one year and he still has a lot of relations in the area.
This Saturday’s fundraiser particularly resonated with the people of Macroom, who are keen to play their part in helping to raise funds and awareness for the two charities.
Macroom and District Lions Club treasurer Declan Sheehan said its members, along with many people from the locality, will be climbing Mushera Mountain as part of the Climb with Charlie project.
“All our members are doing it this Saturday. We have 10 members in our club, but we are expecting a big crowd to support us in the fundraiser.
“We have had people contact us from various walking groups who knew that we were taking part in this fundraiser and wanted to join our event. We have also received lots of phone calls from locals in Macroom who are going to turn up and participate on Saturday,” he said.
Mr Sheehan said the views offered from the top of Mushera Mountain were “beautiful” and participants would enjoy a lovely walk.
“We are looking forward to Saturday. Our members are keen to play their part.
“It’s a straightforward walk up and down the mountain. There is a fence to guide people all the way to the top and down again.
“There are beautiful views from the mountain. You are looking back into Dingle and Cork City. You can also see back into Macroom and Millstreet. It is a lovely walk. I did it a few weeks ago in about 90 minutes.
“Everyone can come and do it at their own pace. We will be on the ground throughout the day helping with parking and with buckets trying to collect as much money as possible.
“All the participants will be making a donation on the day,” he added.
The Lions Club member said Charlie’s poignant appearance on The Late Late Show last December, when he announced that he had motor neurone disease, pulled at everybody’s heartstrings. Mr Sheehan said the club members hoped to raise as much money and awareness as possible for a man with a strong Macroom lineage.
“It all came about after one of our members brought in a photograph of himself and Charlie to a meeting after Charlie appeared on The Late Late Show. Charlie’s grandfather came from Macroom.
“His story has resonated with everybody. We all know him from TV and it is very sad. Our main aim is to raise as much money as possible and to raise awareness of the two charities. When Charlie appeared on The Late Late Show it pulled at the heartstrings of everybody.
“Charlie has very strong Macroom links, which makes it even more special for our group. Charlie was grand marshal for a St Patrick’s Day parade one year. There was a cross near Macroom Mart, which used to be known locally as Bird’s Corner because of the connection with Charlie’s grandfather. He regularly came to Macroom over the years, and he still has a lot of relations in Macroom,” he added.
The treasurer of the Macroom and District Lions Club, which regularly fundraises in their locality for a variety of charities, said their contact in the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association told him that Charlie was very touched when he found out there was a great response from Macroom to the Climb with Charlie project.
“We wanted to do something for Charlie. He is showing a lot of courage. We decided to take part in this challenge for Charlie.
“We have our own individual sponsorship cards as well.
“Our contact with the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association said Charlie was very touched when he found out we were doing the walk for him because of the Macroom connection.”
Inniscarra Community Centre is also holding an event for the Climb With Charlie project this Saturday.
People in the locality who are keen to participate will have the choice of two walks to choose from on the day.
John Connolly from Inniscarra Community Centre said they are hopeful a big crowd will participate in the fundraiser.
“We are expecting a good turnout this Saturday. The centre is a big complex. We have a 1km walkway. We are giving people the option of walking around the walkway as many times as they like. Alternatively, we also have a four-mile loop around Berrings which is very popular with local walkers and joggers.
“If people choose to go this route, it should take them over an hour. It will be good to get people out walking and enjoying themselves.
“There will be refreshments in the centre for everybody who completes the challenge, and all donations will be gratefully received,” he said.
Both events are scheduled to start at 10am this Saturday.
Mr Connolly said Charlie Bird’s recent appearance on The Late Late Show resonated with everybody in the local community who want to play their part in the national fundraiser.
“The Climb With Charlie project has brought it all to the fore for us. It is good to play our part in this event. We all know people who are suffering from motor neurone disease. It will be nice to try and help those people and try to raise as many funds as possible for two great charities.
“Charlie’s appearance on The Late Late Show and his illness has resonated with everybody. He is very well known and liked.
“I hope the weather will stay good and there will be a good crowd out to support this great cause. We are hoping all the clubs in the community will get behind the challenge. It is important to raise awareness and try to make as much money as possible,” he added.
Mr Connolly said there is a great community spirit in the greater hinterland of Inniscarra which will ensure this Saturday’s fundraiser will be a success.
“There is a great community spirit in Inniscarra. We have a very supportive community. There is a great sense of volunteering in the local community. People are great to respond to any charity events.”