A MAJOR fundraiser to benefit motor neurone disease research and local homeless causes is in planning.
The initiative is the brainchild of former Offaly footballer and well-known local activist Paddy Fenning, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) earlier this year.
Motor neurone disease is a progressive neurological condition that attacks the motor neurones, or nerves, in the brain and spinal cord. Messages gradually stop reaching muscles, which leads to weakness and wasting.
As yet, there is no specific treatment that will stop the progression of the disease.
The majority of the monies raised will be funnelled towards MND research and support, while it is Mr Fenning’s wish that a substantial portion of the proceeds be diverted towards local homeless causes, one of the burning social issues in Irish society of late.
The organising committee has emphasised that the fundraiser will be a complete voluntary effort with proceeds going directly to the two causes.
The centrepiece of the fundraiser will be a walk/run which will be held in the greater Tullamore area in mid-2020, emanating from late Fr Tony Coote’s hugely successful ‘Walk While You Can’ initiative.
Fr Coote, who was the parish priest in Mount Merrion, Dublin and an MND sufferer, died earlier this year having raised in excess of €600,000 for MND causes.
Paddy Fenning is a man of several strands having been part of the pioneering Offaly senior football team in the 1970s that won the county’s first All-Ireland in 1971, a title that was retained in 1972 after a record-breaking replay victory over Kerry in which Paddy scored the game’s only goal.
He played 11 seasons for Offaly, winning his fourth Leinster Championship medal in his last campaign in 1980, while he won senior county medals with Tullamore in 1973 and ‘77.
Paddy has also been closely associated with several large-scale fundraising initiatives for Tullamore GAA club, the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore, and the provision of a swimming pool and arts centre for the town, among others. He has now mobilised a large group of people to drive this latest project.
“It’s lamentable that there are just four nurses working in the outreach service provided by the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association (IMNDA), with the fourth only being hired in 2019 as a result of the extensive fundraising activities spearheaded by the inspirational late Father Tony Coote.
“The service that the IMNDA provide is funded completely by public donations and this initiative is an effort on my behalf and that of my team to help provide a greater range of support to approximately 400 people who suffer from the disease in Ireland.
“It is my hope that we can set a template with this initiative here in Offaly to be used in every other county in Ireland.
“It could potentially raise millions and help offset the impact of motor neurone disease, while hastening the search for a cure, as well as eradicating the current homeless crisis in this country.”
A wider committee of approximately 40 people have been mobilised with the executive made up of Joe Stewart (chairman), Mary Roche (secretary), Pat Marron (treasurer), Pat Nolan (PRO) and Jimmy Feery.
A launch night will be held in Tullamore in the New Year, after which card sales will commence with a number of top prizes on offer.