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Two families bound by Mayo’s generosity

Comment & Opinion

BLESSING  Fr John McCormack blesses one of the three pods at the new Mayo Roscommon Hospice. The pods were bought with what remained in the David Gavin Emergency Fund. Members of the Gavin family look on with Martina Jennings, Hospice CEO (on right, in blue).

It is very fitting that the Gavin family in Castlebar should decide to hand over what remains of the funds they raised to find their beloved David to Mayo Roscommon Hospice. After all, if anyone knows about the generosity and kindness of Mayo people, it’s Mayo Roscommon Hospice and the Gavin family. Neither would be where they are today without the ability of people in this county to connect, understand the need for help and put their hands in their pockets.
For the Gavin family, that became all too apparent in the days and weeks that followed the tragic news that David was missing, presumed dead, after getting into difficulty in waters in British Colombia, Canada, on June 30, 2017. Hopes of finding him alive disappeared rapidly, and then, to compound the agony, it looked like his body might never be found.
The frantic efforts of friends who were with David when he failed to resurface were unsuccessful. They put their own lives at risk and had to be helped from the water, or the tragedy would have been greater.
The heartbroken Gavin family made their way to Lake Kinbasket as searches continued in the days and weeks that followed. As Water Safety Officer for Mayo County Council, David’s dad, Michael, oversaw matters with a certain expertise. He could scarcely ever imagine that expertise would be needed to help oversee a search for his own son.
While the Gavins were in Canada, David’s native Breaffy and Castlebar were enveloped in a pall of grief.
In the midst of this, an extraordinary thing happened.
It became apparent that the search for David’s body would take longer than expected, and that money was needed to progress the search effort. A GoFundMe page was set up with modest aims. The reaction of people in Mayo, throughout Ireland and beyond was simply incredible.
Individuals dug deep. Clubs, rivals of David’s Breaffy, which is always strapped for cash, donated their hard-earned lotto takings to the fund.
In no time, hundreds of thousands of euros had been raised.
The money was a massive help, but the show of solidarity that underpinned the donations meant as much, if not more, to the family.
After two months, the initial search was called off. If it had not been for the fundraising, the second search that took place last April, when water levels were lower, might have been impossible. The funds raised also ensured access to top-of-the-range search equipment.
His body was found during that second search.
His father put it simply. “Without the support of so many who put their hands in their pockets, we would not have found David, we would not be able to bring him home. We will be eternally grateful to people for that,” he said.
Michael Gavin was speaking after the family handed over the remaining monies in the search fund to Mayo Roscommon Hospice, which will use it to purchase three pods for its new €9 million building in Castlebar. These pods are a place for reflection and a refuge for people availing of the hospice’s care, and for their family.
Martina Jennings, Mayo Roscommon Hospice CEO, and her team know the importance of Mayo people’s generosity. The new building was built entirely with money fundraised. Again, the people of Mayo saw a great need, and they reacted superbly.
Whether fundraising for such a building should be necessary is a story for another day, though you would wonder why there isn’t more State assistance.
Regardless, Mayo Roscommon Hospice’s new Castlebar facility stands as testament to Mayo people’s meitheal spirit, in the same way that the search for David Gavin did.
It is an incredible building. A credit to all involved in it. It is something to be proud of. Especially when it was only made possible by the goodness of the people of this county.