When three Roe Valley women climb Mount Errigal later this month, they say the struggles they anticipate will be nothing compared to those of two boys close to their hearts.
Laura O’Flaherty, Diane McLaughlin and Jolene Haslett are climbing the Donegal mountain on July 23 to raise funds to buy what they believe will be life-changing equipment for Colm McGuinness, aged 28; and Jolene’s four-year-old son, Joe Haslett.
Diane is Joe’s one-to-one assistant at nursery, and spends considerable time with him.
“Joe is a wee dote from Limavady who suffers from cerebral palsy, epilepsy, dystonia and a number of other complex medical needs,” explained Laura. “He has a rough time and has been in and out of hospital a lot this past while. He wakes up every day with the biggest of smiles on his face and bravely fights through all of his problems and inspires those around him. If you knew him you would know what I mean.”
Colm is from Greysteel and resides in Ralphs Close, a Western Trust residential care home. Colm suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and a number of other debilitating medical conditions.
“Colm is an absolute star and he has been through so much in his 28 years, and he too fights bravely through everything that is thrown at him. The two great loves in Colm’s life, after his mammy and daddy of course, are music and the comfort he finds in the use of his sensory bubble tube,” said Laura.
Colm and Joe struggle and fight every day of their lives,Laura O’Flaherty
The women “wanted to do something that would really challenge us, as Colm and Joe struggle and fight every day of their lives”.
“We definitely wanted something that none of us were going to find easy to do, so we decided to climb Mount Errigal,” said Laura. The women aim to raise £6,000. Also, lacing up her trekking shoes is Joe’s mum, Jolene Haslett.
“Jolene is an amazing mum who has dedicated her whole life to the care of Joe. She is one of the most selfless people I have ever met,” said Laura, who explained: “We have been talking about doing something for the past year to improve the quality of life of both boys, and we have finally decided to put our talk into action. We have decided to organise this as, never in a million years, would we be able to afford these pieces of equipment by ourselves as everything designed for special needs kids is so expensive.”
Laura said they plan to buy a special bike for Joe and a swing set, which is also specially adapted for him and his needs.
“We are hoping to purchase a jukebox and an enormous bubble tube for Colm and his fellow residents to avail of in Ralph’s Close where Colm now lives. Joe and Colm are two very special boys whose lives have been cruelly limited by their medical conditions and circumstances, and this equipment will dramatically change their lives,” said Laura.
The women say people have been generous with their donations.
“The boys are an absolute inspiration, and I would urge people to donate to this very worthwhile cause as it will have a profound effect on the day to day lives of the boys,” said Laura.
Any excess funds raised after the purchase of the equipment for the boys will be donated to the Children’s Hospice, which Joe regularly avails of and which has been a great support to Joe and his family, said Laura.
“We would like to thank everyone who has donated to our cause so far. They will never know how much it means to both Colm’s family and Joe’s, and especially the boys themselves who are unfortunately unable to thank the people themselves so it is up to us to speak on their behalf.”
Laura and Diane have set up a Just Giving page, but will close soon.
“So, if any one would like to donate they can do so by post to myself to 16 Larch Road, Limavady, BT49 9NE,” said Laura. “Any donations, however small, will make a great difference and will be greatly appreciated.”
Laura thanked Diane for helping organise the climb, and Joe’s family for their support. “We have been very fortunate in that we have had great support from the local community and we have placed charity tins in local businesses and shops around the Greysteel, Ballykelly and Limavady areas and we have a lot of lovely people out with their sponsor sheets on our behalf,” explained Laura.
“There will be at least 20 people taking part in the climb on the 23rd of July.”