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Man (78) pushes buggy 250km from Sligo to Dublin to raise money for sick kids

Eugene O'Leary has raised a staggering €150,000 for Children's Health Foundation Crumlin since 2004

Eugene O'Leary (78) on the East Pier in Howth where he finished his 250km walk pushing a buggy from Sligo to Dublin to raise money for Crumlin Children's Hospital

Tony McCullagh

A 78-YEAR-OLD man has just completed a gruelling coast-to-coast trek across Ireland while pushing a baby's buggy to raise funds for a cause close to his heart.

Eugene O'Leary - affectionately known as 'the man with the pram' - arrived back in his hometown of Howth yesterday, three weeks after setting off on his ambitious fundraising venture in Sligo.

This isn't the first time the super-fit pensioner has taken to the road on behalf of Children's Health Foundation Crumlin - he has raised a staggering €150,000 for the charity since 2004.

Eugene said he would be forever grateful to Crumlin Children's Hospital, who cared for his late daughter Helen from the time she was born.

Seventy eight year old Eugene O Leary pictured on the East Pier in Howth where he finished his 250 K walk pushing a buggy from Sligo to Dublin to raise money for Crumlin Children’s Hospital.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath

She had open heart surgery when she was just six weeks old and again at the age of three.

When she was five, she had a mechanical heart valve inserted by surgeons at the hospital, which gave her a new lease of life but required ongoing monitoring and medication.

Tragically, in 2002, Helen passed away at the age of 19. She was no longer under the care of Crumlin Children's Hospital.

Soon after, Eugene took early retirement from his job at Dublin Port as he struggled to cope with the loss of his daughter.

"I was devastated after Helen died as we were very close," Eugene told the Herald. "She received fantastic care from the hospital staff at Crumlin for most of her life and it never cost us a single penny, apart from our bus and train fare."

Two years after Helen's death, Eugene dedicated himself to fundraising for the hospital in honour of her memory.

He has taken part in several charity cycles to countries such as South Africa, Hungary, Spain, France, America and even the Arctic Circle in northern Finland.

This is the third buggy push he has completed for the charity, which follows fast on the heels of a lockdown challenge he set himself to walk 1,000km in 100 days.

Between these two events alone, he has raised over €16,000 for the hospital.

Eugene believes his fundraising adventures have helped him deal with the death of his beloved daughter.

"Doing all this makes me feel close to Helen, whether I'm cycling, walking or pushing a pram," he said. "I always feel she is with me."

Eugene received a fantastic reaction from the public during his most recent journey, which largely followed the route of the National Famine Way from Strokestown in Roscommon to Custom House Quay in Dublin.

"I was mainly camping out in the wild, so the buggy was perfect for carrying all my gear," he explained.

"One night, when I was in my tent beside the canal in Mullingar, a man approached me and asked how long I had been homeless for."

Eugene was grateful for the kindness of strangers when he was offered a bed on three occasions in Boyle and Strokestown after the weather turned bad.

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