New Hospice Christmas mile in Harriers as club gets set for new track

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ger.scully@tullamoretribune.ie

ONE of Tullamore’s longest standing traditions will continue this year and in future years but with organisers taking the big and welcome step of benefitting a very worthy local charity.

Tullamore Harriers will stage their first annual Hospice Mile this Christmas morning with all funds raised going towards the Offaly Hospice Foundation’s ambitious plans for a new Midlands Specialist Palliative Care Unit in Tullamore.

The Hospice Mile will replace the GOAL Mile, an event which has been an integral part of the Christmas morning celebrations for generations since it commenced in the mid 1980s.

That event has raised considerable money, into the hundreds of thousands, for the third world charity, collecting €33,000 at its peak during the boom years – it incorporated a big collection in Tullamore and sponsorship cards in those few years when it exceeded €30,000. The recession and a decision to limit the collection to the club on Christmas morning saw this figure reduce in the last decade but club chairman Adrian Curley stated last week that have set a target of collecting a still substantial €10,000 this Christmas morning. He called on club members and the wider community to help rejuvenate an event that helps walkers, joggers and runners to brush off the Christmas cobwebs.

He explained that the club wanted to change direction and benefit a local charity in coming years. After reading about the Offaly Hospice Foundation’s plans in recent months, they met with their chairman Professor Humphrey O’Connor a couple of weeks ago and were very impressed with his presentation of their project.

The change comes during a busy time for the club and they recently got good news when they were approved for €225,000 in the Sports Capital Grants. This money will go towards the resurfacing of the club’s much cherished 400 metres tartan track in their stadium off the Charleville Road. The Harriers were the first private members owned club in Europe to develop a tartan track back in the late 1970s and it was the envy of clubs throughout the country. The project will cost in the region of €300,000 and the balance will come from the club’s own resources and fundraising initiatives.

It was last resurfaced in the 1990s and is now due an upgrade. Management Committee chairman Tom Beatty stated last week that the new track should maintain the stadium’s reputation as the most popular and well used track in the country.

Work will begin next August after completion of the annual national and provincial championships in Tullamore Harriers and it should be completed within four to six weeks. Since the tartan track was first constructed, the club has hosted the National Senior Track and Field Championships on a couple of occasions and has been the annual venue for many more national and provincial events. The Hospice Mile will take place on Christmas morning from 10.00am to 12 noon with a competitive and timed mile taking place at 11.00am – Adrian Curley stated last week that they will time miles for any other groups who seek it earlier or later in the morning. Donations can be made on the morning and Mr Curley appealed for support for the event.

Professor Humphrey O’Connor thanked Tullamore Harriers for supporting their project and also appealed for support. He hoped that other groups will also stage fundraising activities to support the centre.

While exact figures can’t be determined at the moment, the Midlands Specialist Palliative Care In-Patient Unit is likely to cost in the region of €12 to 15 million. It will cater for counties Offaly, Laois, Westmeath and Longford and the HSE have made two potential sites available on the campus of the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore.

Tullamore has been suggested for the site as the 2001 National Advisory Committee on Palliative Care directed that Specialist Palliative Care Units should be based close to the acute general hospital with the broadest range of specialist services including Oncology.

The proposed unit will consist of a twenty bed specialist in-patient unit, a day care centre and outpatient department, specialist medical and nursing staff with at least one to one nursing and other medical personnel.

The Offaly Hospice Foundation have transferred half of their own bank reserves, €500,000 to the fund and are in discussions with their counterparts in Laois, Longford and Westmeath in a bid to secure their support.

The cost of building the unit will have to come from fundraising initiatives and the staffing and running costs will then be taken over by the Government.

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