Families in Wexford get on their feet to help sick children
Ballycogley native Ann-Marie Fortune took the first step in making a change for children when she pulled crowds together for the inaugural Wexford Walk4families at St Martin's GAA Pitch.
The nationwide event saw people of all ages get on their feet to raise money for Ronald McDonald House. Over 130 people took part in the event, which was the first of its kind in the county.
'It was a great day and the weather was beautiful which made it all the better,' said Ann-Marie. 'We have received over €1,200 and money is still coming in.'
Bringing the event to Wexford was inspired by Ann-Marie's own personal experience with the house in 2011. What should have been an exciting time for the first-time turned into a nightmare when her daughter Kate was brought into the world with serious health problems in 2011.
The Ballycogley native and husband Ciaran were shocked to be told that their newborn must remain in hospital, resulting in them staying in Our Lady's Children's Hospital for over eight weeks.
'She was our first baby so it was unbelievably tough,' said Ann-Marie. 'I literally walked out of my house on December 28 to go to the hospital and didn't come home until February. We were there for 63 days.'
The family welcomed the opportunity to stay in the Ronald McDonald House - a 16 bed unit that allows families to stay together to be with their sick child. Ann-Marie said that the stay made things a lot easier for her family.
'That took a lot of pressure off us. There was nothing for us to do - no shopping, no cleaning, no nothing. We had so much support from the staff, as well as the other families who are there,' she explained.
Since 2011, Kate has made a full recovery and is now enjoying her first few weeks in Senior Infants. However, the traumatic time that was experienced by Ciaran and Ann-Marie encouraged them to give something back to the Ronald McDonald House. In recent years, Ann-Marie has raised €2,355 for the cause and by organising the Walk4families, she hoped to add to that. She teamed up with other local families the Dorans and the Brennans who have also received assistance at the Ronald McDonald House. Sharon Busher and Barry Brennan's son Jack was born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia and they spent 14 months in the house. Meanwhile, Ciara and Micheal Doran's son James spent six months there while he was receiving treatment for heart problems.
The money raised over the weekend will go towards the construction of a new accommodation facility that will cater for 53 families. At present, they can only cater for 20.
'It is a great cause,' said Ann-Marie. 'I never knew about the house until I needed it.'
Owing to the success of the first event, Ann-Marie hopes to run the walk in Wexford next year with the Dorans and the Brennans and said that it will be 'bigger and better' than the first.