The timing seemed to be perfect for Claudy man Sean O’Neill when his daughter suggested he take on the challenge of walking the 500 mile long Camino de Santiago - alone - later this month.
Sean, a father of two grown up children, was going through some changes in his life - not least being told that he was facing redundancy.
“It seemed like a good time to stop, take stock and decide what to do next so when it was suggested I walk the Camino de Santiago I figured the timing was just right.”
It just so happened that his daughter, Shauna, had recently started working as a fundraiser with Derry based charity Children in Crossfire so, he said, “my arm was kind of twisted up my back”.
The route, which traverses 500 miles over 40 days promises to be gruelling. And for Sean, he says this will pose a few challenges. “I’m someone who has led a sedentary lifestyle. The biggest challenge for me has been toughening my feet up. As I worked in an office, my feet are as soft as babies! I’ve already had to rope my wife into lancing and dressing my blisters.”
Indeed as Sean reveals there are a number of specialist clinics and hospitals along the route designed to deal specifically with foot and ankle injuries.
“I’ve been trying to wear in a pair of good walking shoes,” he said, adding that while he knows the walk will be really tough he is “looking forward to the solitude”. He will be walking the majority of the route on his own before a ten strong steam from Children in Crossfire - including his daughter Shauna - will be joining him for the final stretch.
“I’ve never been away from home in all my years of marriage without my family. My wife, Pauline is joking that I better not just decide to keep walking!”
It was not only the persuasive powers of his daughter which led him to decide to support Children in Crossfire. He was inspired by a talk given by charity director Richard Moore.
“It was then I realised just the extent of the work they do - it is real, life changing stuff. I know we have need on our own doorstep but what the people helped by Children in Crossfire face is just on another level.”
To support Sean, and Children in Crossfire, during his trek - which begins on May 21, visit www.justgiving.com/seanocamino