When he runs the Walled City Marathon on June 5th, Eglinton man Ken Curry will have two things in mind.
While he’s still coming to terms with the physical challenge of completing the 26 miles - having only developed an interest in running a year ago - Ken’s core aim is to raise the profile of two causes which are close to his heart.
Ken’s proceeds from sponsorship around the event will be donated to Foyle Sailability and ‘Jennifer’s Journey.’
A keen sailor, 56-years-old Ken has been a key member of the Foyle Sailability Team since the organisation was launched three years ago when members of local sailing clubs first came together.
Since then, the voluntary organisation has given countless people with disabilities safe and fun access to the Foyle.
Foyle Sailability makes water sports accessible with the help of specialised equipment, such as a hoist at Foyle Port Marina; accessible boats, such as the Hansa 303; access to the water via pontoons at Foyle Port Marina and Greencastle and support from trained and qualified volunteers.
Ken’s passion for the sailability group is what is driving him to do the marathon.
“When you see what the young people in particular get out of it, it’s amazing. It’s brilliant when you have them out on the water and you see the reaction that they have. It’s unforgettable.”
Foyle Sailability caters for people from all sides of the community and both sides of the border.
All volunteers are trained in safeguarding.
A key objective for all of those involved with Sailability is to achieve a permanent base along the Foyle.
Ken believes a physical base for the organisation would allow volunteers to expand their services even further.
“We’ve been able to see how other Sailability organisations work and we think a base is badly needed here in the North West,” he said.
“We currently have a base at the Foyle Pontoon along the quay and also one in Greencastle. But to have one place where we could carry out all the work from would be great.”
One of the locations thought to have been considered in relation to this is Prehen, although to date, Foyle Sailability have not had their own location to operate from.
Ken and his fellow volunteers are hopeful that this will change in the near future.
“It would definitely be a big plus and would really increase the profile of the organisation.”
The group welcomes participation from anyone with a disability or who faces severe disadvantage – regardless of on the water experience.
This year’s Foyle Sailability events kick off on May 14 with ‘Go with the Flow’ sessions at Foyle Port Marina. There will also be two days of pre-Clipper activities as part of the Foyle Maritime Festival on July 6 and 7 and a one day Foyle Sailability Regatta on August 12, as part of Greencastle Regatta.
When he takes part in the marathon, Ken will also be running to try and raise funds for Jennifer’s Journey.
Jennifer Smyth is the Eglinton teenager who became a quadriplegic after a gymnastics accident in 2013.
A close friend of Jennifer and her family, Ken says he feels Jennifer is hugely deserving of the funds raised and of the support of people locally.
“Jennifer has been hugely brave and is an inspiration to others so it was important to me that I Jennifer’s Journey was part of the fundraising around the marathon,” he said.
In the coming days Ken will gather sponsorship ahead of the marathon.
“I can’t believe it’s so close now,” he says, contemplating the mammoth challenge.
“This time last year I couldn’t even run a 5k. This isn’t something I ever thought I’d be doing. I started going out with the Eglinton Road Runners and that really helped me. There’s great spirit in the group and and everybody helps each other.”
Having recently taken part in a relay team in the Belfast marathon, Ken says he’s as ready as he’ll ever be for the Belfast Marathon.
“I have lots of people supporting me on the day so I think that will be a big help. And if we can raise the profile of Foyle Sailability and Jennifer’s Journey it will all be worth it.”