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Charlie Bird tells of his joy at €900,000 raised for charity ahead of this weekend's Croagh Patrick climb

Charlie Bird and his dog Tiger in training in January for tomorrow’s charity fund-raiser. Photo: Maxwells

Melanie Finn

Charlie Bird has said he “cannot describe in words” how he’s feeling this weekend as he embarks on his ‘Climb With Charlie’ fundraising event tomorrow.

The latest tally on his fundraising website shows he has raised nearly €900,000 for two charities, the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and Pieta as he gears up to climb Croagh Patrick.

More than 150 fundraising climbs will take place simultaneously all over the country and abroad as members of the public scale mountains and hills to show their support for his astonishing campaign.

Broadcaster Charlie (72), who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) last year, told the Irish Independent about his hopes of making it to Christmas 2022 and said the disease was making every meal a challenge.

“I am not a religious person but in the past few months I feel that I am being moved by an external force and a spiritual force,” he said.

“And I mean this – if someone had told me this time last year that I was going to raise nearly €1m for two charities, I would have said you’d been drinking too much.

“But I am totally blown away by what has happened over the past few months.”

When RTÉ’s former chief news correspondent revealed late last year he had been diagnosed with MND, he sparked a outpouring of support from all over the country. The reporter, who was with RTÉ for 38 years, then vowed to climb Croagh Patrick. He is doing so tomorrow .

He wants to raise funds and awareness for MND while showing solidarity for those facing similar mental and physical challenges and said his life was now changed utterly as a result.

“Tens of thousands of people have come on board to support Climb With Charlie,” he said.

“Yes, my life has changed because I now have a terminal illness, but more importantly because I cannot believe what has happened to me.”

Bono dedicated a new song to him called Crazy Mountain while Michael English and the RTÉ Orchestra recorded charity single Shine A Light with proceeds going to his campaign.

Many of his celebrity friends will also be joining him on the climb tomorrow including Ryan Tubridy, George Lee, Joanna Donnelly, Dermot Bannon, Roz Purcell, Sinéad Crowley, Barry McGuigan and Daniel O’Donnell.

Also joining him in Mayo will be his wife Claire, his children Neasa and Orla, and his grandchildren.

He said he cannot believe how much money has been raised “from the lovely people across Ireland.”

“But there is another story of how I have received support from people who I would never have imagined would support me. There is another story to come.”

He has been “blown away” by the support he has received from every corner of the country with countless letters, pictures and cards being sent to his home in Ashford, Co Wicklow.

“I have received tens of hundreds of letters and cards. But the one thing that stands out is the money which I have received from school children all over Ireland,” he said.

On his current health, he said it is “not great” as the terminal disease starts to take hold and makes everyday tasks more challenging. He has now lost his voice and communicates via technology that has cloned his speech, which is so recognisible thanks to his years in the public eye.

“People who see me out walking think I am good. But my MND has affected my voice, which is now gone. But more disturbing, my swallow is getting worse every day. Each meal I have is a challenge. Sometimes I feel I am going to croak… and that is the same every day. But I am not the only one with this awful disease,” he said.

“I have two burning goals: that I can live for another Christmas and, finally, every year from now on we will have a Climb with Charlie at Croagh Patrick on the Saturday nearest to April 2.”


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