While the majority of us have been staying at home to protect ourselves from coronavirus and the bravest among us are on the frontlines caring for those in critical need, a group of six young men from Tallaght are doing things a little differently to do their bit for the cause: they’re running to raise funds for frontline staff at Tallaght Hospital.
Paul Allan, a Trinity graduate, and five other men – Daniel Murphy, Evan Kilbane, Conor Ryan, Ryan Carpenter and Robert Nowlan – are collectively running 450km over the course of 30 days, with all donations going towards frontline staff working at Tallaght Hospital.
It’s clear that the six men, who hail from Tallaght, see the importance of giving back to their local hospital at a time when it needs it most. Murphy points out: “We’ve all unfortunately had a visit to Tallaght hospital at one stage or another, from the smallest to the largest of injuries.” Nowlan calls it “an opportunity for us to give back, because we all know what it’s like to be there, to get treated there”.
While their own experiences of the hospital are one factor in their motivations to fundraise, Allan points out the importance of the hospital to the community at large and to people’s careers, saying: “There are a lot of people we have gone to school with or gone to college with who have gone on to be nurses or doctors.”
The pandemic has placed a massive strain on the health service and frontline staff. Retired health professionals are being brought back, student nurses and doctors work without guaranteed pay and all staff members are having to work long hours in extremely stressful conditions.
Allan says now – when there’s “such a big struggle” for the health sector – is exactly the right time to fundraise. Murphy adds: “These guys are working for, let’s be honest, not near enough money. At the end of the day they get a pat on the back and that’s it.”
But if a 450km combined run is challenging generally, the task has been made more complex by new government restrictions that mean members of the public have to stay within 2km of their homes. I point this out, but Kilbane is optimistic. “It is a bit of a challenge”, he says, “but it’s definitely doable”.
Quarantine can take its toll on people, but the group highlights the importance of exercise. Speaking about the benefits of running, Carpenter stresses: “For me, it was more about my mental health. Everyone is stuck indoors so you can get a bit of cabin fever.”
The six men sing from the same sheet when it comes to their motivations. Murphy initially took up running as a personal challenge, raising almost €1,000 last year for St Vincent’s hospital. Carpenter says he “wanted to put my running towards something and make a difference”, while Kilbane adds: “We all have people that we know, close friends and relatives … who are in the centre of it in medical services, so it’s just something we can do to play our part.”
Ultimately, the aim of their fundraising, Allan says, is to “bring a bit of good news”. With so many heart-dropping figures and statistics circulating on news channels and social media feeds, the group hopes to provide a sense of optimism during this difficult time. “A lot of the nurses that we would know have got back to us with messages saying: ‘Thank you so much for thinking of us.’ It’s nice to be able to spread a bit of good news.”
As for the fruits of the fundraising, Kilbane says the response has been “crazy”.
They had initially set a goal of raising €1,000, but within 24 hours of setting up their Gofundme page they had already reached almost €900. They were bowled over by the response – “it’s a very very difficult time as a lot of people may have been laid off or gone on temporary leave,” Kilbane says.
It’s a scary time for everyone – financially, medically and mentally – but the six want to start by helping out those who most need help at the minute: hospitals, and the frontline staff that work in them. Carpenter says: “This is just a way to thank nurses and doctors for all their hard work and their dedication to their job. It’s just a way to say thank you, we see you, we appreciate you.”
It’s hard to see positives in a pandemic that has left Ireland – and the world – reeling. But Murphy and Allan sum up the upside to a crisis of such huge proportions: “When you think about it, we’re all one team against COVID-19. A little bit of action and teamwork can go a long way.”