In this section, our founder John Kelly recounts the story behind “Sunrise” and how it came about….
About 435 millions years ago, in the Silurian period, apparently ; Croagh Patrick was formed when the sedimentary rocks were metamorphosed, leaving a summit 764m high.
441 AD, St Patrick fasted on the summit for 40 days ; a custom which has been handed down through the generations, still to this day, (well at least until 2019), where many come to from all over the world on pilgrimage to the mountain ; with the last Sunday in July traditionally seeing circa 25,000 make the climb.
Fast forward to the 1950’s when our parents were young, barely in their twenties, like many around them working on farms or in the towns, they would pack up after work or when milking was finished and head off to do “The Reek”, as penance for their sins. A couple of hours to get there, then climb in the dark, (mind you it stays bright in summer virtually to 11:30pm ) with handheld torches, if you had one, and a good stick for balance, they’d do the climb, go to Mass at the Summit then back down and head home to be ready for “milking the cows first thing in the morning. “ so our Dad would say, proud he was of his 14 lifetime climbs – thinking about it, they were hardy people. they didn’t have head torches, climbing poles, hydration packs or Gortex, or need massages and a sleep afterwards, fair play to them!
In the latter years, as Dad’s Parkinson’s progressed and getting around was challenging for him, I’d come home from Kent to Roscommon, special for his birthday on July 17th. which invariably led to a climb of Croagh Patrick, on the weekend. and the joy of getting out in the fresh air, up the mountain, and the spectacular views of Clew Bay across to Claire Island and all the way out into the majestic Atlantic Ocean. We’d call our parents from the summit, so they could hear the wind. and eventually return home with the pictures they could enjoy.
Then in 2015, we took up 2 university friends (B. Comm, UCD, 1982), from Mayo and Monaghan, who’d never climbed the mountain before; for one reason or the other it had been a life time ambition for them – we managed to climb and return safely to the car park and all were happy, if a little damp, that day, but lots was learned and our first group climb had happened.
Then in January 2016 my dear mother in law, passed away ; Eleanor had had Huntington’s disease for about 6 or 7 years prior to passing. It was about 5-6 weeks before the middle of July that year, when it dawned on me that myself and my brother in law, Ger Breen, could climb Croagh Patrick and maybe raise some funds for HDAI and we did, and with the help of my wife Susan, and her work colleagues, we raised over €5k in aid of HDAI but the amazing thing was the fun we had that day on the mountain, Ger was great, he laughed and joked his way up and down, and connected with so many other climbers, at one stage surrendering our final drop of water to a much needing stranded young lady who had fallen behind her ascending troupe ; thankfully we were nearly down.
Back in London, colleagues loved the pics and were up for coming over in 2017 ; My brother Gabriel asked why we weren’t including Parkinson, given Dad’s condition, so PDAI was added to the beneficiaries.
By late 2016 our mother was having problems with her health, she had been Dad’s carer for 19 years, but by the end of 2016 she was using a 3 wheeled push trolley to get around, including administering Dad’s medicine, many times each day . Something hadn’t been right with her “feet” for a few years, but she wasn’t getting anywhere with her podiatrists nor her neurologists. -Then through some serendipity in early 2017 with the help of an inspired Roscommon doctor and nurse, Mam finally discovers she has a slow progressive form of Motor Neurone Disease. Relieved as she was to know what the matter was, and encouraged that the type of condition she had wouldn’t kill her” Mam is still with us, as I write 17/10/20.
She is being cared for in a decent Roscommon Care home, she has been without voice for some time, the condition slowly silencing her so that now she can no longer make a single noise, nothing, its one of the most frustrating things for her and for us – no longer can she text as she used to,, that’s taken too! She’s survived Covid, so far, earlier this year she endured 2 separate hospital trips – where she languished for weeks, on both occasions, in virtual no-mans land, trapped between covid protols, that she couldn’t be released without a covid test, versus she didn’t need to be tested – but she survived those episodes and many months later we held our first Zoom call, 3pm on Sundays, where he family chats for an hour or so, and Mam gets to see her family, once again. She’s just about able to hold her arm up, the “thumbs up” not so easy any more, but thanks to technology we are doing something we couldn’t do otherwise! Its tough times, but we’re not alone… Thanks to all who help 🙂
Back in early 2017 even before Mams diagnosis was confirmed, IMNDA were there, I called from London, in no time Eithne met me in Benny’s café in Castlerea, she would be “in our mothers corner” and we felt reassured and safe and Eithne and IMNDA have been in our corner since, without them Mam wouldn’t have had her super electric chair, her ipad with technology ; help with her home care while she was able to stay home, and much more, IMNDA is truly “a small but mighty organisation” (Oonagh Kavanagh RIP), and today years later, Mam needs a specialist therapeutic chair, that has loads of measurements involved, and IMNDA are there again!
So IMNDA are on our beneficiary list for 2017 and we had a great event, Mam was able to be there, at the foot of the mountain, in her wheel chair but able to stand and wave, and chat. Her sister, Sister Jacinta, as ever had rallied the family, (“I’ll support IMNDA”, said Sr J, as we call her ) ; all the Cullinan cousins and their families from Connaught and Leinster were there to do their bit, well done everyone.
Earlier in the year, social media connected us with a new Parkinson’s organisation, part of PDAI, called Young Parkinson’s Ireland (YPI) ; I had done a post about ‘Sunriseupcroaghpatrick’, and the wonderful Clare Connolly, reached out to say that she was with YPI, they were just starting up and were planning climb of Croagh Patrick, as their first activity, but had never been up it and she wanted to hear more about what we were doing. Short story, Clare couldn’t make the climb but Joe Condon their chairman and 13 of this member colleagues came along and did something remarkable, they all successfully climbed and returned safely from the climb, phenomenal achievements one and all and no thanks to my help! Let’s say I got distracted with our first rescue, one of our other climbers got into a little difficulty but all went fine in the end. The mountain , teaches us something new on every climb.. Well done YPI..
It gives us great joy to see others joining in doing their thing, raising money, and that money going straight to charities of their choice. Many people have done this over the years, some are anonymous and we never get to meet them ; I remember one generous person, reminding us to think of those who couldn’t make the climb, and of course that sentiment goes with us on every event – Thank you, whoever you are!
The night before our climb a stranger donated a large amount of money on in support of Huntington’s, signing off as the “Crowd from Limerick” and then another lady put on another generous amount. This was great to see and gave us that emotional boost – I wondered who it could be, and if I’d ever meet them..
On the climb, I had met two ladies, several times, at the bottom, when we were giving out tee-shirts ; on the way up a couple of times as they rested and we chatted and shared a laugh. It wasn’t until I made it to the summit, and our photos were been taken that both ladies we to my left and right, when a name was mentioned and then it clicked with me, these were the “Crowd from Limerick” ; they had been raising money in Limerick, some generous people had been helping them. And here they were – Amazing – Anne O Shea and her mother Bridie, what troupers!
I later learned that Anne’s husband Christy had passed away only the previous November, at the age of 46, with Huntington’s. Anne, supported by Bridie and friends were climbing Croagh Patrick for Christy. It was quiet some time later when I was looking at photo’s that I realised Anne had been holding a picture of Christy in her hand as pictures were been taken. It was so moving.. well done Anne and Bridie. We parted and I headed off..
On the way down, just off the summit, I happened to look back up the mountain, I could see someone wearing our tee-shirts was lying on the on the track, and that someone else was running to her aid – also wearing our tee-shirt! At times like this your brain tells you all sorts, that perhaps the person might have passed, or be badly hurt, so you stay calm and go help. When I got there the lady was trying to get her laughing mother to her feet Thankfully everybody was okay and of course who should it be but Anne and her mother Bridie. They had been coming down the path, which is not ideal as it has little grip on it for going down, better to stay on the lose talus on the right, just off the track, so I helped Bride over off the track, both of us with 2 climbing poles each ; what I didn’t know was that Bridie was a little shaken, and in no time we were rolling down the mountain ;thankfully coming to a quick stop ; Bridie was laughing away, me saying “Um, this isn’t funny” ; but we managed to right ourselves, and with Anne’s help we managed to get back down the mountain, taking our time. Bridie had done amazingly, her friends had said she wouldn’t make it but Bridie proved them wrong. Later I asked what was all the laughing about – It’s how Bridie deals with adversity, to laugh it off, and she’s so right!
Our colleagues came from London and some of my university classmates (B. Comm. 1982 ) came for the weekend. Everyone had a great time. In the evening 16 remained for dinner, where members from each charity explained what it was like for them, to live with their conditions. So encouraged were my friends that they offered to help for the next year – Thank you James, Tina & Ed, Christine.
Frank couldn’t make it until the Sunday, coming all the way from a family event, in Cork, celebrating his uncle’s 50 years as a priest’. So of course we climbed Croagh Patrick again on the Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, so much so that on Monday morning, when I woke, despite logs for legs, we’d have climbed again, thankfully we had other plans!
With Franks leadership, Sunriseupcroaghpatrick became a different prospect and our team shaped for 2018 ; meeting regularly over the phone on a monthly, sometimes weekly basis.
We had Gazebo’s thanks to James and Tina, at the tourist centre, full of goody bags generously filled with fruit, water and flapjacks sponsored by Flavhavan’s – hundreds of climbers were introduced to our 3 charities and more awareness was spread. Caps had been printed, and all went for €5.00.
Frank was our host and put on a super evening for us in the Plaza Hotel, in the Waldorf Suite, this time we had 44 for dinner. We had a dial in from Fergal O Neil, who had completed the phenomenal Marathon de Sable, held in Morocco, in the April where he ran in the desert for close on a week, carrying all his kit on his back throughout, one night he ran in a sandstorm, for something like 80 kilometres, just phenomenal stuff. Fergal had been training for months previously, getting special heat training and salt balancing guidance ; while at the same time being Dad to 4 your children and holding down a job in the UK while living in Ireland ; oh and then ran a second ultra marathon, from the South East of Ireland to Dublin. Thank you Fergal and Family.
We had twitter a twitter wall with loads of SoMe posts, with pictures and videos from all who participated in the day.
Speakers included Gary Boyle on behalf of PDAI and Patricia Towey HDAI ; IMDA kindly sent us a heart warming video of Thanks compiled by their Team in Dublin. The message is to get awareness of the conditions out to the public, and the need for support and help but also the support and help that is now available through these associations.
Rarely do the charities get an opportunity to meet and to share the same stage as it were, so they are thankful to Sunrisupcroaghpatrick for that.
Our plans had slipped by a half hour, which made life difficult for our people with Parkinson’s ; particularly for Gary who had to speak. People with Parkinson’s have to take their medicines on a strict time regimen throughout the day, which is closely tied into or should I say away from food, to allow the meds to be properly absorbed. We learned our lesson and in 2019 we got our act together and timings were spot on.
Thanks to Frank he organised an auction where some Irish produced beauty products from Seavite were sold in aid of the event. Thanks also to Brian Murphy from Balcas in Enniskillen and Art O’Hagan from City Property Services in Armagh who both provided prize sponsorship to help the fundraising.
…. I am recollecting this in October 2020… ready for our rebranding and web redevelopment project. and of course the focus of our efforts was in hosting the event, so those memories come back fairly readily and then we remember what hadn’t been scripted nor planned out of the blue, a week before our June 2018 event, we get a letter from one of our Classmates, Oonagh Kavanagh (Brennan) and her husband, Peter. Delighted to hear from them of course, and delighted to hear they were supporting our event but as we read on the reality of Oonagh’s situation, began to dawn.
They had been with us in University College Dublin for 3 years and we hadn’t seen them since we graduated in 1982. I later learned they had started going out in our final year dinner dance, they had lived all over the world, including London for a time, but latterly in San Francisco for something like 24 years where they had a very successful life together. In 2016 they had decided to come back to Ireland to be nearer Oonagh’s large family, soon afterwards Oonagh explained in her letter that she began to have problems with her speech and in the autumn Oonagh was diagnosed with MND. Oonagh and Peter were very pleased to hear about our event and encouraged our classmates to do what they could.
Oonagh was always a chatty person, full of beans and a joyful, happy sort. She had been involved in amateur dramatics in San Francisco, and had been the managing director of their Chamber of Commerce, with a background in marketing. She even helped start a poetry convention there.. But now her voice was failing; we were hoping to speak to Oonagh but instead communication was with whatsapp.. encouraging messages went back and forth, between us for some time.. Oonagh’s messages were normal, enquiring about my mother, who also has MND ; we hoped Oonagh would join our weekly meetings to help plan our next event.. it was difficult to pick up what Oonagh was going through, she was busy with visiting family, and keeping up “the good fight” and Carpe Diem!” was her greeting.
Oonagh managed to send us this pic. .. that she is holding.. which I’d never have seen, if I didn’t do this exercise, encouraging as ever..
Oonagh talked of the “relentless thief”.. “stealing physical abilities and independence..” “my condition .. moved to a new phase.. “.. having some problems adjusting to it.. physically and mentally” ..
in June 2019.. Oonagh described the “more frustration” “because my mind continues to be active and is moving as fast and furious as ever, even though my body is getting weaker!” but always wishing “your Croagh Patrick event goes well next weekend.. and many thanks to you and everyone involved, for supporting this worthy cause. All the best Oonagh”
We promised Oonagh and Peter, 2 tee-shirts sent with a “warming hug” which she looked forward to, which we never managed to deliver (my regret) & the event was a success. We promised “to get back soon..” but then we got the shocking email in August to tell us that Oonagh had passed away!
As Peter might say.. in typical Oonagh style, we have been given our “reason”, our “purpose” to “Don’t give up!!!!”
2019 was an equally successful weekend, this time we had our new colourful teeshirt on offer and once again so many climbers on the day, stopped into our 3 Gazebo base camp, sourced by James Murphy, and led by his wife Tina.
In 2018 we trialled a 40 mile cycle from Achill, to Westport, called the Greeway, a specially laid route along what used to be the railway line; which was a great experience most of the 20 cyclists, unfortunately Tina, had an accident on the course, injuring her knee requiring a couple of days stay in hospital, Thankfully Tina made a full recovery – no doubt helped by Gabriel who happened to catch up with Tina & James and had his first aid kit with him.
A special Thanks to Cathal Cronin for not only drone videoing our 2018 climb, and supporting Frank with the Saturday night presentation ; but for also documenting our Cycle Ride, Thanks you Cathal and to your Mum Shiobhan for cycling so far – well done both.
A special Thanks to all our Friends and Family who joined us in Westport in 2018 and 2019 to our Classmates from Commerce way back and their families. Too. But also to our friends from Blackrock.
So in 2019 we had a rest on Sunday, with many just chillin or perhaps taking some local trips to take in the beauty spots.
We did make one innovation in 2019 and that was the addition of a 5k walk, as an alternative to the full climb; enabling more participants to enjoy the experience – Gabriel was our walk leader where he turned left at the gate with his group, which takes you to a couple of hundred yards up the mountain, high enough to look over clew bay and it’s “365 islands”- Gabriel had a long day, afterwards the headed up for a full climb, back in time for dinner. fair play.
Climbing Croagh Patrick doesn’t require any signage, but the walk does as we didn’t want have anyone go astray, particularly with 2 road crossings. so on the Friday evening Gabriel put them up and on the Michael and myself took them down ; round the town Frank Joe and myself have had great fun getting or welcome event signs up round town, welcoming participants from all over Ireland and the UK.
We’ve had all sorts of weather, for our climbs, as the say in Westport, you can get 4 seasons on the mountain in one day – you can climb in the rain so often that you dream of going up in sunshine rising in sunshine so to speak – which is where the name Sunriseupcroaghpatrick came from; 2015 was a damp day, 2016 nice and sunny, 2017 full cloud cover, visibility 50 yards, 2018 was amazing, really dry, 35 degrees pretty much, we feared it would be too hot, imagine 2019 was another fabulous day, late 20’s, clear blue sky perfect.
2020 was a whole different ball game in so many ways, not least of which the weather! Early in February, we became aware of a unknown virus that was making its way across the planet from Wuhan ; though the WHO was reluctant to call it a pandemic at first, it was clear within weeks that a bio storm was on its way. Northern Italy quickly succumbed and many thousands died within weeks, similarly in France and Spain. Ireland was on the ball and went into full lockdown the week leading up to St Patrick’s Day, it took the UK another couple of weeks to catch up.
Confident that we were in this for the long haul, pretty much immediately Sunriseupcroaghpatrick, started to plan a virtual event for Saturday June 27th, the challenge recommended by our SoMe leaders, the Fenn family suggested we host a challenge that everyone could do ; to connect with June 27th we figured we could say that 1 Croagh Patrick equated to 27,000 steps, the equivalent to a half marathon and the challenge was “How many Croagh Patricks could you do”, in the 27 days of June.
As usual fundraising pages started to happen on iDonate ;
The amazing Vincent Power aged 90, set out to do 190,000 equivalent to 90 miles ; but in the end did over 100 miles, equivalent to 7 Croagh Patricks and raised an amazing €1,590.00 ; Very Well done Vincent.
In total over 10.5 million steps were completed by the many people participating, beating our target of 7.0 million steps. In all 8,000 KM were completed or 389 virtual Croagh Patricks.
In the beginning we’d have been very happy if we managed to raise €10,000.00 but the time of writing we have exceeded €20,000.00 and wonder if we could get to perhaps €25/27,000.00 before we close for 2020. Fingers crossed our final push can get us over the closing target.
And the reason is, the funds are highly treasured by the charities which are helping those in need.
And the weather in Westport on Saturday June 27th ; well it was a wash out ; fair play to Michael Kelly our only climber on the day, he completed the round trip in an amazing 2 hours 45 minutes – check his youtube video – meanwhile others were completing their challenges doing all sorts, from climbing stairs to walking round their gardens.. and more.. Its clear Covid19 has changed us all in many ways -one things for sure, our virtual event is hear to stay.. what will it be in 2021.. ? and when will we be back in Westport again, is anyone’s guess.. hopefully not too long..
Thanks to everyone for your help and assistance ; you have done an amazing job. Thank you to the charties who we support, you are doing an amazing job, keep going ; those people with conditions and their families need all our Support..
In addition throughout 2019-20 we have been working on rebranding.. with a name change to “SunriseForBrainConditions” and a new logo.
The idea of the name change is hopefully intuitive ; The term “brain condition” is becoming more widely used by global organisations ; it encompasses many diseases of the head that might not be necessarily identified as neurological, such as epilepsy, or migraine, or brain injury.. but we will still have our SunriseForBrainConditions UpCroaghPatrick along with other events like the 10k run/walk, 100k cycle etc.