Five runners from Dungiven ran their hearts out on Monday when they completed the Belfast City marathon to raise awareness for organ donation.
Lacing up their well-worn trainers were Dungiven’s Glenda McCloskey, Peter McCaul, Seamus Harkin, Sinead Gaile and Tara McVey.
“It was a great day,” Seamus told the ‘Journal’.
“We all had a fantastic experience, all had great individual times and, overall, the team did it in just over four hours.”
The inspiration behind the awareness raising run was Seamus’s nephew, 18-year-old Ryan O’Connor from Dungiven, who is enjoying his new life after a heart transplant last year.
The message travelling with the runners, on their T-shirts, as they pounded the streets of Belfast was “Life is a gift ...pass it on’. In some way, through family connections or friends, they all know and have been inspired by Ryan O’Connor - who is patron for the ‘Opt for Life’ campaign - and his family.
“Ryan’s granny Ma Cooke jumped on the Goldliner to cheer ‘Team Ryan’ over the line on the Ravenhill Road! I couldn’t believe it. That’s support!” said Seamus, adding the day was full of emotions and runners who were all their for their own particular reason. “At the end I saw a girl run towards the finish line and she was in tears, and a lady came out and hugged her. I don’t know if it was her mother, or a friend, but they were overcome with emotion. I was a bit choked up,” said Seamus.
For Glenda and the others on the team, they all, in some way or another, know Ryan and his family, and his grandmother - Ma Cooke - through growing up and playing football with St. Canices Ladies GAC, “so this is our way to give something back and to support the family for everything they have endured with Ryan, and also to support other families,” said Glenda. “I think there are people who aren’t aware about organ donation so if we can raise awareness that’s important.”
Seamus added: “The group would like to thank everyone for their support and hope that more people are now aware of the importance of organ donation and making their families aware of their wishes.”
A special ‘organ donation support’ day will be held in Dungiven later this month organised by the local GAA clubs.
James McMacken, vice chairperson of Kevin Lynch Hurling Club and PRO for St. Canice’s GAC, is hoping to get as much support as possible.
“We have asked all sporting clubs and non-sporting clubs in the parish to help support this,” James told the ‘Journal’. “The hurling club is planning the support day on 25th May, and we are doing this to support Joe Brolly and the ongoing ‘Opt for Life’ campaign.”
The day starts from 11am at Kevin Lynch Hurling Club grounds.