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Fundraising for Mitchell Sisters Independent Living Project complete


FUNDRAISING SUCCESS The Mitchell sisters Mairead and Aoibheann, are pictured with their parents Kathleen and Hilary, at a benefit concert in the Castlecourt Hotel last October. Pic: Frank Dolan

Heartfelt thanks by parents of adult girls with debilitating disease

Áine Ryan

THE parents of two daughters, Mairéad and Aoibheann Mitchell, who are living with the debilitating Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have thanked the public for their huge support for the ‘Mitchell Sisters Independent Living Project’. Hilary and Kathleen Mitchell (nee McDonnell from Liscarney, Westport) have written an open-letter to communities in their home county of Sligo, and Co Mayo, to confirm the fundraising effort is now complete and to acknowledge its success.  
In the heartfelt letter, Kathleen wrote: “You heard our story and responded in abundance. We cannot believe the tremendous support – monetary, emotional, social and psychological that we have received. We have been heartened and humbled by the community spirit here in Coolera, throughout Sligo, my home community in Westport, and all of Ireland.”
Paying tribute to all the communities and committees who organised fundraising events, she said: “You are the loving, caring, giving, generous neighbours, friends and strangers that reached out to us in plenty. Your effect on us, in our time of need has been incredibly profound and unquantifiable. You have opened up possibilities and hope for the future for our two girls.”
Concluding, Kathleen and Hilary said they ‘speechless’ by the support.
“Please know that they are cherished and valued beyond words by Maíréad and Aoibheann, and by our whole family. You have made our world a better place. We thank you most sincerely from the bottom of our hearts.”
In their late teens Aoibheann and Mairéad slowly developed difficulty with their gait and walking. Hilary and Kathleen, a midwife, sought medical opinions and a diagnosis was not forthcoming. Some months ago Kathleen told The Mayo News that this was possibly one of the most harrowing times of their lives. Throughout this time and most especially after the diagnosis of HSP the family were numbed, overwhelmed and in shock.
“I cried for weeks, we were both distraught. For a long time I was trying to deny it to myself. You know how it is …  you would rather have the illness yourself than see something happen to your children. It’s a parent’s natural instinct,” she said.  
Speaking at the time, Hilary, who is now the full-time carer for the girls, said it was not easy for them to agree to the funding venture.
He said: “Retirement has now taken on a whole different perspective. Nowhere had we made provision for this set of circumstances. We had never heard of HSP. Trying to meet the complex needs of their disability has of course put the family under stress: emotional, physical and financial.”
Just over three months after the fundraising effort went public, and with financial support from Sligo County Council, the girls can now look forward to living in specially adapted dwellings, next door to their parents. They are built in accordance with Wheelchair Association’s Best Practice Access Guidelines.

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