A WEST Limerick walking team who raised over €150,000 for people living with a rare and incredibly painful skin condition have paid tribute to their many local supporters.
Shanagolden-based Eamon O’Kane and his three friends, took part in a 75km charity walking challenge every year for Debra Ireland, the national organisation which supports people living with EB (epidermolysis bullosa).
The genetic condition causes the skin, both inside and out, to blister and wound at the slightest touch.
The Limerick team have raised over €150,000 for the charity in the past 14 years by taking on Debra’s Kerry Mountain Challenge.
“Last year was our best yet, we set a target of €25,000 which I didn’t think we’d reach, but incredibly, we managed to surpass it,” said a delighted Eamon.
The team includes Eamon, Pat Toomey and Mike Histon from Shanagolden, with Joe Carrig from Askeaton.
The courage of people with EB has inspired the Limerick men to go the extra mile for the charity.
“Debra Ireland’s Patient Ambassador Emma Fogarty is the oldest person living with severe EB in Ireland and she is one of the greatest people I’ve ever met,” said Eamon.
“Emma lives with excruciating pain every day, her body is 80 per cent covered in bandages to protect her from everyday life and yet you never see Emma without a smile on her face.”
According to Joe Carrig: “Once you meet the patients and their families their stories tug at your heart strings.
“It is unbelievable how much these people have to suffer, you would do anything to help them.”
With this in mind, the team put a huge effort into fundraising.
Donations come from family, friends and neighbours, as well as supermarket bag packs and an Irish music night hosted by Joe, who is well able to deliver a song.
“It is a great community effort and I want to thank everyone who supported us.” said Eamon.
Debra Ireland’s next Kerry Challenge takes place in Dingle on May 22-24 and Eamon is encouraging others to join them.
“It is a very sociable event. People from all walks of life and all levels of fitness take part and everyone goes out of their way to make new people feel welcome.”
“Not only do you get to immerse yourself in some of Ireland’s most spectacular scenery and enjoy great sing-songs in the evenings, you will also be making a huge difference to patients and their families with EB,” he said.
For more information on Debra Ireland’s Kerry Challenge see www.debraireland.orgwww.debraireland.org