CHARIMAN Martin McErlane has called on both the GAA and wider Derry community to throw its support behind the ‘RefsForRyan’ initative, which was officially launched in Celtic Park following Saturday night’s McKenna Cup game between Derry and Jordanstown.
Michael Wilson reports
The fund was set up by a group of Derry referees to aid the rehabilitation of 18-year old Ryan O’Connor from Dungiven, son of well know St. Canice’s referee, Declan. Brave Ryan was born with congenital heart disease and went through his first heart procedure only days after he was born.
During his life Ryan has received many other operations but, unfortunately over this past 12 months his heart began to deteriorate. In November, Ryan received a heart transplant which initially appeared to been a success. However complications arose after his heart arrested and Ryan was left in a critical condition during which his legs suffered irreparable tissue damage.
The brave Dungiven teen went through major surgery again on Friday, December 7th, to remove his legs, only two weeks after he received his new heart but his family said they have been overwhelmed by the amount of support for their son.
On hearing of Ryan’s plight, a group of referees met and formed a fundraising committee in order to aid his rehabilitation. To date, almost 60 referees from the Oak Leaf county have confirmed their support and the initiative has received the backing of Derry County Board. The RefsforRyan Committee is made up of Chairman - Martin Mc Erlane, South Derry Secretary/PRO - Martin Donnelly, North Derry Secretary - Gavin Dixon and Treasurer, Liam Kealey.
A number of events are currently being organised with an Inter Club Quiz kicking it off in Watty Graham’s Social Club in Maghera. There will also be a 5k and 10K Fun Run and a Family 10K Guided Mountain Walk. A ‘Last Man Standing’ Competition is also being organised and the fundraiser will finish once again in Maghera with a Night of music, entertainment, auctions and craic.
A number of referees have received donation sheets for the various events and have already been active in gathering funds. Donations from county teams have also been received already and the committee asked that the GAA and, indeed the wider community, support them in what is a very worthwhile and unique fundraiser.
Updated information can be found on the fund’s Twitter site @RefsforRyandFund or on the facebook site ‘Refsforryan Derrygaa’. To donate please contact your club referee in Derry or email firstname.lastname@example.org for info. Bank account details and dates and times of events will be published in the near future.