A 76-YEAR-OLD man is walking with a buggy from Galway to Howth to raise money for Crumlin Children’s Hospital in memory of his daughter who died aged 19. Eugene O’Leary will complete the 225-kilometre journey tomorrow at Howth after he arrives at Crumlin Children’s Hospital at around 3pm today.
O’Leary, who is from Cork but lives in Howth, hopes to raise €2,000 for the hospital, which treated his daughter Helen until she turned 18. Having started on 15 August, the date of his daughter’s birthday, O’Leary has traveled across the country in a bid to thank the hospital that did so much for his daughter.
Born with a congenital heart defect, she had surgery almost immediately. “When she was six weeks old she had open heart surgery,” he says. Aged five, treatments were failing to help – so the hospital gave Helen a mechanical heart valve. The procedure worked and “she did everything she wanted to do,” O’Leary says.
From head prefect at her Sutton school to being named pupil of the year, O’Leary says the treatment transformed his daughter’s life. Aged 19, Helen passed away after one of her arteries ruptured following treatment – but O’Leary has always remained grateful to Crumlin Children’s Hospital. Over the years, O’Leary estimates that he’s raised approximately €100,000 for the hospital.
After his daughter died, he said he started cycling to raise money for the St Francis Hospice, Raheny. His fundraising efforts took off from there and he’s been raising money for Crumlin ever since. “We were never charged one cent,” for his daughter’s care, says O’Leary – now he wants to pay back their help.
Coast to coast
His journey will take him from the Atlantic to the Irish sea, with Crumlin Hospital staffing waiting to greet O’Leary when he arrives later this afternoon. From Loughrea to Ballinasloe and from Athlone to Kinnegad, O’Leary praised the kindness and generosity of the people he encountered as he walked across the country with his buggy.