PEDAL POWER Shauna and Deborah Bennett are hoping more cyclists will join them for the last leg of their cross-country journey to Louisburgh. Pic: Courtesy of Michael Lacey
Louisburgh sisters to cycle across Ireland to raise funds for the hospital that saved their little cousin’s life
Two Louisburgh sisters are planning to cycle from Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, to their hometown in Mayo, to raise awareness and much-needed funds for the hospital.
Shauna and Deborah Bennett, 18 and 22, will start the 280km trip from the Dublin hospital on July 19, hoping to arrive in Westport the following day at 5pm, where they will then pedal the final 20km stretch to Louisburgh.
The sisters came up with the fundraising initiative as a way of showing their gratitude to the staff of the hospital, whom they say ‘saved our cousin’s life’.
The sisters’ cousin, a brave two year old named Hannah, was born with a 99 percent blockage in a tiny part of her airways. She was rushed from Coombe Hospital in Dublin to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, where she had to undergo life-saving surgery to put a tracheostomy in place in order to maintain an airway. She then spent ‘three long touch-and-go months’ in Crumlin.
Speaking to The Mayo News last week, Deborah revealed what motivated her to come up with the idea of giving something back.
“I was up in Dublin on several occasions when [Hannah] was there, and I can tell you it was an eye-opening experience,” she explained.
“It was upsetting seeing my cousin there in a tiny cot, tubes going everywhere, and seeing the dozens of other families there too. It was really a place that tugged the heart strings.
“You would nearly want to leave and cry for an hour and come back it was that bad.”
Deborah and her sister wanted to do something to for the hospital that had helped Hannah so much.
“We got into one of our random conversations one night, and the topic of raising money and awareness came up.
“This was closely followed by ‘Sure why don’t we cycle across the country for them?’, and then we just emailed the CMRF [Children’s Medical & Research Foundation], who welcomed the idea, and must have thought these mad ones from the west!”
Word quickly spread of the two kind-hearted sisters’ plan to cycle the width of the country, and with that came three more volunteers, brothers Evander and Jason Brennan from Sligo and Westport man Dylan Corr. So far, they have been blown away by the reaction.
“We are just overwhelmed by the amount of support,” she said, adding that fundraising is vital for the service.
“CMRF Crumlin have funded thousands of pieces of equipment and upgraded and built new cancer wards, which cost €4.5 million. All this was done through fundraised money, with not a single cent from the HSE. This simply couldn’t have been done but for the very kind support from around the country.”
She also went on to reveal the sacrifices she and her family have had to make because of Hannah’s situation.
“My auntie now lives in Kildare, because it is handier just to stay closer to Crumlin, just in case. She doesn’t get down to Mayo at all.
“We’re up and down nearly every week to her. Nobody blinks an eye at it. We pay €60 for the train every time, and it doesn’t mean a thing to us, because we get to spend a bit of time with them.”
Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, is the largest paediatric hospital in Ireland. It sees an astonishing 160,000 children every year, something Deborah took note of during her regular visits.
“To be honest, I think Crumlin is over-flowing with people. I was speaking to one of the CMRF managers, and she told me that on average a child will be brought through the doors every four minutes. That is a huge number. They are taking in the whole country, so it is under a lot of pressure, as the HSE contributes very little.”
The recent announcement that Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital will be relocated to the same campus as St James’s Hospital, where a new state-of-the-art children’s hospital is being built at an estimated cost of €750 million, comes as welcome news for the Mayo woman, despite the controversy surrounding the location.
“It is a good idea, although I don’t think the location of it is ideal, but I feel it will be much more beneficial because of the new equipment and technology.”
Deborah was also very quick to point out the amazing work the nurses of Our Lady’s Hospital have done for them.
“I couldn’t say enough about them, they have been so supportive and everything.
“They have trained my auntie from scratch, from cleaning the tracheostomy to putting one in in an emergency. We’re pretty much experts at it by now, thanks to them.
“They make you feel a lot more comfortable about the whole situation, because it is quite invasive for our cousin.”
Upon the cyclists’ arrival into Louisburgh, there will be refreshments and music in the Derrylahan Bar & Bistro, as well as a big raffle with some impressive prizes up for grabs. There will also be street collections as the cyclists come into Westport and Louisburgh, and sponsorship cards will be in the area also.
Deborah also stressed than any cyclist who wants to join in can do so from Charlestown down, ‘to help get them over the final hurdle’ of their journey.
Both Deborah and Shauna wanted to express their gratitude to everyone who has helped them on their journey so far.
“Most of you will never get to meet the children who will benefit from the donations you give, so on behalf of those children, their families and the staff in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin, thank you.”
You can donate to the girls’ cycle on their fundraising page at www.cmrf.org/user/deborah or follow them on the Facebook page, 280km Cycle for Crumlin.