‘Moira is a true inspiration’

Moira McHale has cerebral palsy, needs crutches to walk but tomorrow she will take part in a 5K race in Omagh.

Moira will celebrate her 30th birthday in May and to describe her outlook on life and her smile as infectious would be a serious understatement. Moira is bubbly, articulate, intelligent and has a wicked sense of humour. Just being in her company for five minutes makes you feel better.

Moira McHale. DER1714SL207 Photo: Stephen Latimer

Moira McHale. DER1714SL207 Photo: Stephen Latimer

Disability is something that Moira has lived with from the day she was born. In fact, her cerebral palsy means she is registered disabled and it has resulted in her sinking into deep bouts of depression in the past.

Several years ago, Moira, from Fernabbey, got involved with the Volunteers Investment Project (VIP) at the Gasyard Centre on the Leckey Road. In the years that followed, she helped out at many events during Derry’s year as City of Culture and with community organisation DIVERT but, two years ago she got talking to Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum GP Referral worker, Davy Doherty and her life changed forever.

“To be honest with you I would have suffered very badly from depression before I started coming to the Gasyard,” said Moira.

“Some days would have been very dark but I always tried to stay positive but sometime that was very hard.

DER1714SL206 Photo: Stephen Latimer

DER1714SL206 Photo: Stephen Latimer

“My condition means I am limited in terms of what I can and can’t do but getting involved with the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum is one of the best things I have ever done my life.”

The Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum helps people from all walks of life to improve both their mental and physical fitness. Their programmes are specifically aimed at those who find themselves somewhat removed from society or those who may find it difficult to become involved with a regular exercise plan.

Inside the Gasyard Centre there is a small gym. It has a few treadmills, weights, rowing machines and cross-trainers. Moira explained how she got started two years ago.

“When I first started going to the gym it wasn’t practically laid out for someone in my condition but Davy Doherty worked around me and made sure I got the best out it. I did a bit of boxing and before long I was taking part in circuit training.”

DER1714SL205 Photo: Stephen Latimer

DER1714SL205 Photo: Stephen Latimer

Davy made a pact with Moira on the first day she came to the gym. He promised her he would help her to complete the ‘Jog in the Bog’ when she felt she was ready.

The ‘Jog in the Bog’ is a 5K road race run by the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum and last year, along with Davy, Moira complete it.

“If you had have told me that I would have done something like the ‘Jog in the Bog’ a few years ago I would have thought you were off your head. In the weeks leading up to the race I was sort of hoping Davy would forget about it but he didn’t and looking back now, I am glad he didn’t.

“Davy and Elaine Doherty and everyone at the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum have been of great support to me - without them I wouldn’t have been able to complete any of this.”

Using nothing but her own strength, stamina, perseverance and her crutches, Moira completed last year’s ‘Jog in the Bog’ and as soon she completes tomorrow’s 5K race in Omagh she plans on setting her sights on taking part in the Waterside Half Marathon later this year.

“Look, it’s this simple, if I can get up off my backside and exercise and get myself fit then anyone can,” said Moira with a big smile on her face.

“Other people with disabilities should know that there is help and support out there for them - joining a group like the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum made the world of difference to my life and it could change your life too,” she said.

Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum General Manager Tony Doherty praised

“The Health Forum is very much committed to the spirit and practice of the “Change A Little - Change A Lot” strategy of encouraging and facilitating organisations to improve accessibility by engaging disability in a variety of ways.

“In Moira’s case we may have changed a little but she has changed a lot. Moira is a true inspiration. Our experience of working with Moira has been wholly positive in that she has been helped to overcome the physical barriers, created by her cerebral palsy, to engaging in strenuous physical activity.

“Our approach to overcoming such barriers is ‘if there’s a will there’s a way!’”

For more information on the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum contact the team on 028 7136 5330.