Champion boxer Eamonn O’Kane is hoping to pack a punch and make a difference for a local charity.
The 33-year-old is throwing his weight behind the charity Let’s Talk Crohn’s and Colitis Nothern Ireland.
I want to help as much as I can, and I hope people will get behind the charity.Banagher middleweight, Eamonn O’Kane
The Banagher middleweight was asked by Aneica Duffy from the Foreglen to lend his voice.
“I’m honoured Aneica asked me,” said Eamonn.
“I want to help as much as I can, and I hope people will get behind the charity. It needs help.”
Four years ago Aneica, 21, was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, a long term condition, a form of inflammatory bowel disease.
“It definitely is debilitating,” said Aneica of the condition. “I would urge people to try and understand what it is and how it affects people. It’s not their fault if some people don’t understand the condition, which is why we have to raise awareness about it and the challenges we face. We have to do our bit.
“I thought ‘who would be a good person to champion the cause?’ and I thought of Eamonn.”
Having the condition, Aneica is aware of the misconceptions out there about it - which is why education is crucial, she says.
“If you mention to someone ‘I’ve Chron’s or Ulcerative Colitis’, they don’t have a clue but, if you said ‘I’ve cancer’, instantly they know. It’s not their fault.
“It’s up to us to educate people and make people understand that, if someone is very fatigued and can’t do things, or they use the toilet a lot, there is a valid reason.”
Aneica has been through major surgery, and now wears an ileostomy bag. She faces further surgery, but she hasn’t let the condition stop her from doing what she wants.
Aneica plays camogie and football and, last year, she fund-raised by running a leg of the Belfast Marathon for the charity.
“Eamonn is such a nice person and a high profile sports person. To have him on board means people will listen up and they’ll become more interested. It’s just great to have him on board .”
Eamonn, a Commonwealth gold medallist who had the eyes of the boxing world on him recently when he stepped into the ring in Madison Square Garden in New York, said he is “honoured” Aneica asked him to come on board.
“I don’t think people know enough about Chron’s. I think when they hear about it, it’s not a big deal.
“Anything I can do to raise awareness or to make things better for people, I’m happy to,” he told the ‘Journal’.
“Aneica is such a young girl, 21 years old, and the way she has spoken about her condition - she hasn’t been afraid to speak out and stand up for herself.
“I’m 33 and, when I think of what she has been through, and what’s ahead of her, well ,that’s real courage.
“I take my hat off to her. To be honest, I’m amazed she even asked me to do this. I’m definitely up for doing what ever I can.”
For information about Let’s Talk Crohn’s & Colitis Northern Ireland, go to http://www.ltccni.co.uk/
Follow the charity on Twitter @LTCCNI
The charity has a Facebook page - Lets Talk Crohn’s & Colitis Northern Ireland - which Aneica said is a great forum for discussion for people with the condition and also a good way to learn more about the charity and events.