Climb With Charlie | 

Charlie Bird's Croagh Patrick fundraiser for MND goes global ahead of summit in Mayo today

Events are taking place all across the world today to raise funds for the ‘Climb With Charlie’ charity

Charlie Bird pictured in Westport town centre with pupils from Scoil Pádraig who gave a recital for him ahead of the climb of Croagh Patrick. Photo: Gerry Mooney.

Eoghan Moloney

More than €1m has been raised by over 1,300 fundraisers across the globe ahead of today’s Climb With Charlie event.

Charlie Bird will summit Croagh Patrick today despite his Motor Neurone Disease (MND) diagnosis in a bid to raise funds and awareness for the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and Pieta.

Across Ireland and further afield, tens of thousands of people will take part in more than 220 organised climbs, walks and runs to raise funds for Climb With Charlie.

One of the fundraisers is Barry McCabe, who knows all too well the horrible effects of MND.

The Galway native’s father, Paddy, succumbed to the disease in 2014 after a three-year battle.

When Charlie Bird announced he was launching a fundraiser following his terminal diagnosis, Barry jumped at the chance to raise much needed-money and awareness for the disease.

Barry’s fundraiser “grew legs” in the past month and has become the most fruitful so far of the 1,333 official fundraisers through the Climb With Charlie website, at over €19,000 raised.

“When Charlie announced on the The Late Late Show that he was climbing Croagh Patrick, I decided to fundraise and within a few hours I had a few thousand.

“The funds raised by everybody will help a lot and it means the poor family that gets awful news next week, they will have the equipment and support needed,” Barry told The Irish Independent .

The scenic Knockma Hill walking trail in Galway will be the venue for Barry’s climb with a team of two dozen volunteers enlisted to help as the local communities of Tuam, Caherlistrane and the wider north Galway region have rowed in to support Charlie’s cause.

Barry has been corresponding with Charlie throughout the year as he decided to fundraise from an early stage. He says Charlie’s experience of the disease was quite different to his father’s.

“It’s almost like a different disease. Dad lost (the use of) his limbs, we’ll say, his arms and legs and was in a wheelchair from an early stage but had his voice up until the day he died, more or less,” Barry said.

“I met Charlie in Tuam on Thursday and to look at him you’d think there’s not much wrong with him, except his voice. He’s a fit man for 72 given his illness. He is something else, I can tell you.”

Another person touched by Charlie’s struggle and bravery is Maurice Moffett.

The 60-year-old Monaghan man admitted he is “very lucky to be here” after a severe bout of Covid-19 hospitalised him for 100 days in 2021 and meant he had to be ventilated in ICU for seven weeks.

“The care I got was just incredible,” Maurice said. “The nurses and the doctors were just awesome and I just want to give something back to people that need it now that I can.”

The Monaghan man said he has been inspired by Charlie’s bravery after he had his own health scare and said the local community and a wide circle of friends had dug deep to ensure his fundraising efforts top €20,000.

The climb at Sliabh Beagh today isn’t a particularly steep one but Maurice said “that’s not the point”. He said he expects well over 100 locals to embark on the journey with him. Maurice revealed he has a few ideas “in my back pocket” for additional fundraising but these would be a surprise for those in attendance at Sliabh Beagh.

“I was lucky that I recovered quickly enough from my illness but I suffered with tiredness for a long time afterwards. I learned that any day you put on your own shoes and go outside is a good day,” Maurice said.

Charlie’s perseverance and character in his battle with the illness has inspired the nation to become involved and do what they can to help people suffering from terminal illnesses or going through mental health struggles.

His message of hope has spread right across the world and hundreds of people will undertake climbs in the US, South Africa, Australia and Spain, arranging walks and runs across mountains, parkland and town squares.

Charlie and his group of family, friends and followers have been training this week ahead of their fundraising climb on Croagh Patrick.

However, Vicky Phelan – by now regarded by Charlie as a “good friend” – will not be in attendance due to health concerns. Vicky has been a big supporter of Charlie’s since his diagnosis, but she confirmed she would not be able to take part in summiting the Reek. “I am so disappointed that I won’t be in Westport this weekend to see everyone off at the base of Croagh Patrick but my family will be there representing me,” Vicky said. She wished Charlie and everyone involved the “very best of luck”.

Charlie will also be joined on the climb by Room To Improve’s Dermot Bannon, model Roz Purcell and RTÉ weather presenter Joanna Donnelly, as well as country music legend Daniel O’Donnell, who will perform songs from the top of the mountain.

The Clew Bay pipe band will also summit Croagh Patrick and perform.

Charlie’s wife Claire told RTÉ’s Ryan Tubridy the Army’s air corps had also arrived to transport all the instruments and equipment to the top of the mountain.

Midwest Radio will broadcast live from the summit, where Charlie will then use his app to address the crowd. Claire said: “People are climbing all around the world and have taken on our message of climbing in their own areas, climb your own hills, stairs, light a candle and it’s really worked.”

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