Cork communities rally to support Challenge 21 in aid of Down Syndrome Centre Cork

Sunday’s Challenge 21 fundraiser will see participants set off at 10.30am from Haulbowline, and make the 21km journey to Páirc Uí Chaoimh, the equivalent of a half marathon.
Cork communities rally to support Challenge 21 in aid of Down Syndrome Centre Cork

Olympian Rob Heffernan, and Freya Desmond, launch Challenge 21 for the Down Syndrome Centre Cork, on World Down Syndrome Day. The Challenge 21 fundraiser invites participants to walk, jog or run the 21km distance from Haulbowline to Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday, June 18. Picture: Darragh Kane

OLYMPIAN Rob Heffernan is set to lead more than 300 people this Sunday in a 21km walk, jog, or run in aid of the Down Syndrome Centre Cork.

Sunday’s Challenge 21 fundraiser will see participants set off at 10.30am from Haulbowline, and make the 21km journey to Páirc Uí Chaoimh, the equivalent of a half marathon.

The challenge is in aid of Down Syndrome Centre Cork, which relies completely on fundraising to provide vital early intervention services for children with Down syndrome in Cork.

Rob Heffernan, Irish champion race walker and Olympian, will be at the head of the challenge, and he told The Echo he was very happy to help the Down Syndrome Centre Cork in any way he could.

“I’ve done some work with the Down Syndrome Centre Cork and with kids who have Down syndrome over the years, and I’m always delighted to meet them because I just find the kids a breath of fresh air,” Mr Heffernan said.

“The more funds that are raised for the centre to give them opportunities to do more things, the better, because I just absolutely love the kids.

“They’re as honest as the day is long, and I think in this day and age when you can be fully yourself around somebody and not be judged, that’s a very precious thing,” the elite athlete said.

“I’m delighted and honoured to do anything I can to help the Down Syndrome Centre Cork because they’re doing such great work.” One of the people organising the Challenge 21 Fundraiser is Cian Desmond, whose daughter Freya uses the services of the Down Syndrome Centre Cork.

“The scale of the support from the community for the fundraiser, with so many people getting behind our kids, is just very humbling,” Mr Desmond said.

“Green Rebel Marine is our main sponsor, and 20 other companies are also sponsoring us, and we have 60 volunteers from everything from large multinational corporations to Tidy Towns committees, Men’s Sheds, the Cork Volunteer Network, random people on social media, family, friends, friends of friends, 60 people who are coming in to man water stations, pick up litter, give out goodie bags, and we also have loads of people supplying goods for the goodie bags.

“And then the 300 walkers and runners themselves that are taking part in the challenge, and each of them raised money from 21 different people,” Mr Desmond added.

“When you add it all up, there’s in the order of 8,000 people or more in the Cork community that are getting behind us to help raise funds to help us support our kids.”

All funds raised from Challenge 21 will go directly to support the Down Syndrome Centre Cork, a Forge Hill-based facility which offers services to children with Down syndrome and their families.

The centre is a registered charity but does not receive government funding and is wholly reliant on the generosity of the public and local businesses to operate.

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