IN TRAINING Former RTÉ news reporter Charlie Bird, his wife Claire and their dog Tiger out on a training walk in Laragh, Co Wicklow, last Sunday, as Charlie gets ready for his upcoming charity climb of Croagh Patrick on April 2. Pic: Maxwells
MOMENTUM is continuing to gather behind Charlie Bird’s plan to climb Croagh Patrick in April.
The former RTÉ broadcaster, who revealed his diagnosis with motor neurone disease last year, will climb the holy mountain alongside cervical cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan.
Speaking on The Late Late Show, Bird said he is doing climb on Saturday, April 2, in aid of all those suffering from terminal illness or ‘going through a hard time’.
Former President Mary McAleese, Davy Fitzgerald, Donie O’Sullivan, Dermot Bannon, Baz Ashmawy and Daniel O’Donnell are among several high-profile figures who have lent their support to the ‘Climb with Charlie’.
The Mayo football team sent a message to the veteran broadcaster before last Friday’s FBD League meeting with Galway.
In a video which was played on The Late Late Show, Mayo captain Stephen Coen said: “I just want to wish Vicky [Phelan] and Charlie the best of luck. They are coming down to our country to climb Croagh Patrick … it’s in aid of a great charity in Pieta House and Irish Motor Neuron [Disease Association].”
The former RTÉ broadcaster also received a lovely letter from Scoil Phádraig National School in Westport.
From January 17, the boys and girls in each class will take turns to walk the Daily Mile route around their school until the date of the climb (April 2).
In their letter, the students said: “Charlie, we also heard that you are sick. We know it’s not a small sickness like a sore throat or a tummy bug. We understand that it’s bigger than that. We think it is so cool that even though you are feeling unwell, you are going to come and climb Croagh Patrick. It takes a big heart to think about helping others when you are not feeling so great yourself. We learn a lot in Scoil Phadraig about helping others and doing the right thing even when it isn’t easy.”
Along with their letter, the students sent over 150 drawings of footprints with their teacher Ms Nicole Gannon, who travelled to Dublin with the Clew Bay Pipe Band to launch ‘Climb with Charlie’.
They did this to show that they would be walking with Charlie ‘in spirit’.
In response, Bird tweeted: “Go raibh maith agat o bhun mo chroi” (Thank you from the bottom of my heart).
“Our school motto is ‘Ar aghaidh le chéile’ - Going forward together - which we think is a very nice thought to share with you for the weeks ahead. We wish you well Charlie!” their letter concluded.
No longer afraid
Speaking on The Late Late Show on Friday, Bird said that the outpouring of goodwill shown to him after his diagnosis had awakened him spiritually.
He said that he had ‘found peace’ in recent times after initially being devastated by the news that we was terminally ill.
“I am not a deeply religious person, but this has awakened something in me,” he told Ryan Tubridy on The Late Late Show.
“I am no longer as afraid of what is happening to me as when I was first told I had a terminal illness.
“I have found peace. Whatever has happened to me in the past few weeks - in my head and in my heart - I don’t know but when you meet people, they lift you,” he said.
“I told you recently that I cried every day but I don’t cry now. I think it’s hope. I’m so looking forward to climbing Croagh Patrick. People have been climbing Croagh Patrick for 1,500 years and I now realise it may be the end of the journey for me. In one sense, I’m not as afraid now as I was when I got my diagnosis. I have my family around me, my wife, my dog Tiger.
“That dog Tiger has lifted me. When I was crying I would hug him and something happened between us. I want other people to feel that too. All of us. We have to do something for Motor Neurone Disease,” he said.
“I am doing this climb, not for me, but anyone out there that’s sick. When I get to the top I will light a candle for everyone with a terminal illness or those who have mental health issues and for everyone that went through the pandemic,” he added.
As numbers will be limited on the day, Charlie Bird is calling on people to join with him in climbing a mountain, or even a hill, on the day. Tickets for the event can be found at https://www.climbwithcharlie.ie/.
Donations to Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and Pieta House can also made via the website.