Three Limerick men returned to Shannon Airport at the weekend to heroes’ welcomes after they raised enough money in their 16,000km rally on motorcycle from London to Mongolia to keep a local pre-school for the deaf open next year.
Brothers Kevin (29) and Aran (28) Power from Ballybrown and their brother-in-law Stephen Allen (31) from Pallaskenry said they felt like they had been to a different planet and back after a trip that literally had it all.
The trio crossed 17 countries in 40 days, had to purchase a replacement bike in Hungary, endured temperatures of up to 48 degrees Celsius, camped in the wilderness where dangerous wildlife roam and were even made guests of honour at a local wedding in an Uzbekistan village.
But according to all three as they returned exhausted at Shannon Airport at the weekend, their self-titled ‘Lock Stock & 3 Smokin Hondas’ escapade in the Mongolia Charity Rally was more than worth it. The reason being that they raised enough funds so that, for the first time in ten years, parents of children attending the
in Limerick can be guaranteed it will stay open.
The voluntary run preschool costs €26,000 to run every year and the €11,000 plus raised by the trio is the biggest single donation it has received since it was opened ten years ago.
All monies donated went directly to the worthy cause as the three motorcycling enthusiasts funded their entire trip themselves, including return flights for Aran from Australia to Ireland and for Kevin from Switzerland where he works; all their transport, accommodation and food costs. They event funded the purchase of a replacement Honda 125 CC motorcycle in Hungray after Stephen’s had broken down earlier in Belgium – he rode all 1,300km between the countries as a pillion passenger on his fellow team members’ motorcycles.
Just short of 30 motorcyclists had completed the rally over the previous ten years and when the three Limerick men finally crossed the finish line together in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia on Wednesday, they generously donated their motorcycles to a local charity.
Speaking in Shannon Airport on his return, Stephen Allen paid tribute to all who supported the fundraiser, not least his employers Fyregard in Limerick for their fund-raising and time-off.
“It’s hard to believe now that we actually completed it. It was an amazing experience but a tough one at the same time, particularly in Mongolia as we spent much of the time there on dirt tracks.
“We crossed mountain ranges, deserts, and more barren and inhospitable locations that we care to remember. At one stage in Uzbekistan we even ran out of petrol and stopped to ask locals where we could get some and not alone did they sort us out but they invited us to a wedding and made us guests of honour at it.
“We literally couldn’t get over the welcome. The further we went into the poorer parts, the more welcoming and helpful they were. It was an amazing experience to say the least.”
Said Kevin Power, “It’s great to be home knowing that we managed to complete it as it was touch and go at times as we fell off the bikes so often. Above all else we are absolutely thrilled to have been able to raise the money to keep the pre-school going.
“It took 40 days to do and my employers Irish Cement were fantastic to not alone give me the time off but to fundraise as well.”
Equally, Kevin’s brother Aran said that the support from the public has been immense. “We got such support from people back home through fundraising and, indeed, strangers out on the road. It was a huge commitment time-wise as well as physically as being on a bike for that amount of time, especially over bad terrain, knocks you around a bit but it was so worth it.
“We can look back later on in life and say we actually did that. We will probably ask ourselves were we mad but at the end of the day, we finished it and not many motorcyclists can say they did that. Also, we had great motivation; the Midwest School for Hearing Impaired Children is an amazing facility and funded voluntarily so we are delighted to have been able to make a contribution.”
School principal Maria Allen, sister of Stephen Allen, said the school is indebted to the men. “The lads have been huge supporters over the years, even to running marathons but this was a huge commitment. We were in touch with them all the way through and it was anything but a walk in the park for them. They are exhausted and the very fact that they were looking forward to the flight back from Mongolia, via Soul, as luxury says it all.
“They went to enormous cost themselves to do this, let aside the time. This means our pre-school, which was the country’s first pre-school for deaf children when it opened and is still only one of two in the country, will continue to provide an invaluable service for these special young children.”