Kerry Woman Epic single day 170km Ring of Kerry Cycle and Ireland’s highest Summit Climb for kidney patient friend

PRESS RELEASE                                                                                 7th July 2024

Kerry Woman Epic Single Day 170km Ring of Kerry Cycle and Ireland’s Highest Summit Climb For Kidney Patient Friend

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In a remarkable display of endurance and determination, over 50 participants took part in the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle event for the Irish Kidney Association, with thousands riding out for various causes. Among them, one woman,  Liz Fenton from Muingaphuca, near Killorglin, Co Kerry stood out by completing the gruelling 170 km distance in the iconic Cycle, braving a mix of wind, rain, and downpours and some welcome sunshine. But her day didn’t end there. After a brief rest and a change of clothes, she set out to conquer Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntoohil, inspired by her friend, Niall Kennedy, a Roscommon native living in Wexford, who undergoes nightly dialysis.

Her journey was nothing short of extraordinary. Three of her friends were supporting her on different legs of her 170 km cycle, including Mike O’Callaghan, and Killorglin locals Mick Sealy and Noel Doyle. Liz set out on her journey from Killarney at 5.40am and wheeled back into Killarney almost nine hours later at 2.30pm drenched by the rain and, after refuelling and changing clothes and only making one phone call to her challenge inspiration, her friend Niall, was back on the mountain base Cronin’s Yard to commence the 1039 meters Carrauntoohil climb up Devil’s Ladder at 4pm. She was guided by her experienced mountaineering friends Martin McMahon from Tralee and Marguerite Brosnan from Killorglin reaching the summit at exactly 6pm.    Next-door neighbour Mike O’Callaghan impressively completed the 170 km distance twice in one day setting out on his first cycle at 12 midnight and then in his second loop joined Liz on the last leg of her journey as she pushed through changeable weather conditions with a mixture of sunshine, wind, to rain. As a mother of two who had cycled the Ring of Kerry many years before but had not cycled since, so she joined her local Killorglin Cycling Club to prepare for the event.

Liz’s inspiration to undertake the challenge and raise funds for the Irish Kidney Association, was her long-time friend and former colleague, Niall Kennedy, a nurse and married father of three, who faces the daily challenges of dialysis. Motivated by his strength and resilience, she decided to participate in the event after seeing a Facebook post about the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle.

Despite her concerns about the unfavourable weather forecast for the day of the challenge hindering her training, former nurse Liz, who has been working in admin in the Bons Secours in Tralee since 2019, was determined to complete the cycle and the climb. “I used to enjoy hillwalking and cycling years ago but I only returned to it in the past couple of years ago when I joined Laune Mountaineering Club in Killorglin and then Killorglin Cycling Club more recently.”

She continued ,”The challenge was tough, but thinking about my friend Niall who undergoes dialysis every night kept me going. If he can face his challenges with such bravery, then I can push through 170km kilometres and climb a mountain.  I felt compelled to do more, realising that Niall’s ongoing health journey and the thousands of other dialysis patients like him in Ireland, facing uncertainties with no end in sight albeit the hope that a transplant might come along, is far more challenging than any physical feat I could undertake in a single day. She added with a laugh, “Some people joked that there must be something in our Muingaphuca water giving me and my neighbour Mike superpowers to tackle such feats in one day”.

Her brother-in-law, David Triglia, also cycled in the last leg of the Ring of Kerry Charity cycle before Mike joined them as they reached the finish line. Liz expressed immense gratitude to all the people who supported her, including her cycling friends and Martin and Marguerite who climbed Carrauntoohil with her and as she said “minded her like a queen” on the day to ensure she reached the peak. Fortunately, the sun shone through for the full two hours of the climb, with just a little mist when they reached the summit.

Delighted after completing her gruelling challenge Liz commented, “I feel great, my training has paid off.  People have been incredibly encouraging and supportive, cheering me on toward success in my challenge, and have been very generous towards my fundraiser for the Irish Kidney Association, the charity which does great work in supporting patients like Niall and in promoting organ donation. If other people would like to donate to this important cause, no matter how small an amount, it would be hugely appreciated and they can find me on the iDonate platform by searching for Liz Fenton 226 https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/LizFenton226  or support any of the other incredible cyclists who they can find on the Irish Kidney Association’s Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle page.” www.ika.ie/ringofkerry

 

Thousands of cyclists took part in the Ring of Kerry Cycle on the 6th July, and more than 50 cyclists were flying the flag for the Irish Kidney Association.

 

The annual sportive has been running for four decades and has raised funds for hundreds of worthy causes including the kidney community for which it was originally established to support.

Those cycling for the Irish Kidney Association included kidney heart and liver transplant recipients, living kidney donors, and their families and friends, an inspiration to us all and a great reflection of the wider kidney community in Ireland.

Among the riders taking on the 170 km spectacularly scenic circular route of the Ring of Kerry were inspiring individuals with personal connections to kidney health and organ donation (links to many of their profiles at end of press release).

Joan McDonald, a living kidney donor from Oysterhaven, Cork and Aer Lingus Cabin Crew member, who generously gave a kidney to her sister Fiona (living in Midleton) just nine months ago, joined the cycle, embodying the spirit of giving and hope.

Also participating in the life-affirming event were brothers (natives of Crumlin, Dublin) Alan and Ian Cullen. Alan, a kidney recipient now living in Nurney, Carlow, received the life-saving gift from his brother Ian, who lives in Newbridge, Kildare, just under seven months ago, showcasing the profound impact of organ donation. Alan and Ian are two of seven brothers, and the last time they cycled out together in the ROKCC was in 2017.

To celebrate the 22nd anniversary of his kidney transplant, Séamy McDermott from Ballybofey, Co Donegal travelled south to take part, for the first time, in the iconic cycle.

Tipperary man, Francis Hogan, took on the 170km cycle literally two days before he commences dialysis treatment. A father of five living in Templemore and a Clonmel based businessman, his kidney function is at just 10%. He was accompanied on the route by cyclists from his Upperchurch Drombane cycling club.

Supporting the Irish Kidney Association also was Yahya Ouzen from Clonbanin Cross, Cork and now living in Dublin 18, who rode off from Killarney at 7am after a warm embrace by his beautiful kidney transplant wife Hadil and mother Kathleen Curtin.

Ireland’s first combined heart and liver transplant recipient, Martin Malinowski from Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan also donned his cycling gear in support of the Irish Kidney Association for his first ever ROK Charity Cycle, as did heart transplant recipient Shane O’Connell from Castleisland, Kerry. Both are shining examples of the impact of organ donation for transplantation.

Grandmother Una Flynn from Milltown, Killarney, Co Kerry was doing the cycle for the IKA and in support of patients like her four-year-old grandson Jack Richards who his family hope will receive a kidney transplant this year.

Taking on the cycling challenge together and celebrating two family members transplants were four Kerry ladies, Eve Moynihan, Edel Lehane, Sinead and Karina Kelleher. They are raising funds for the IKA as their families were impacted by kidney disease. John Paul Lehane received a kidney donated by his brother in 2018 and they are grateful to the family of the deceased donor for the kidney transplant Donal Kelleher underwent in June last year.

 

Triathlete Bryan Duignan, a kidney transplant recipient from Pallatine, Carlow who represented Ireland in the World Transplant Games in Australia in 2023 was accompanied on the scenic cycle by his partner Lara Dillon, Sharon Harris-Byrne and Andrea Gannon, members of the Carlow Triathlon Club. Unfortunately,  Bryan was struck down with a tummy bug and pushed through as far as he could. However, with sickness and the resulting weakness of his condition, at 115km, with just a third of the journey to go, he had to stop. On medical advice he did not continue and was taken under the care of the Order of Malta, while Lara, Sharon and Andrea continued and completed the challenge.  Bryan said, “I feel gutted that I couldn’t finish as I had done all the training in the lead up to the event. I plan to come back to finish what I started by taking part again next year.” He continued,”I want to thank all those who supported me in my training, cycled with me, and those who supported my fundraising efforts for the IKA.”  Bryan, who received a kidney transplant in 2006, has been embracing life through sport since then and last month was Stateside taking part in the Escape from Alcatraz challenge in San Francisco.

 

Some cycling for the IKA were out on the course at 5am including Killarney businessman Pat Looney, who also cycled in the inaugural cycle four decades before which his wife Theresa founded along with another Killarney man Denis Geaney. The early bird cyclists were determined to get a head start and pace themselves and enjoy the long-distance but spectacularly scenic Ring of Kerry route stopping off in Caherciveen to refuel and reapply their sponsored La Roche Posay Sun cream before continuing on the circular route before arriving back into Killarney where they received a warm welcome.

 

Helping to raise awareness for the work of the Irish Kidney Association and organ donation is Dr Colm Henry, Chief Clinical Officer, HSE. Dr Henry said before the cycle, “I’m looking forward to the Ring of Kerry Cycle as while a challenging route, it’s one of the most scenic routes and it’s a significant event in the Irish cycling calendar. I’m cycling for the Irish Kidney Association to support the fantastic work they do for patients and their families. They play a vital role in raising awareness of organ donation, encouraging and supporting people to have the conversation with their family to become organ donors. Organ donation has a significant impact on improving the quality of life for recipients and is a selfless act by those who donate and their families.”

For those who could not attempt the Charity Cycle in person, they can support the Irish Kidney Association by participating remotely in their own way on the event day or throughout the month of July. Whether individually over a series of days, in relays with friends, or through gym classes, it is possible to register and contribute through the IKA’s Virtual Cycle iDonate link on its website page www.ika.ie/ringofkerry.

Dialysis patients in Tallaght University Hospital in Dublin had a novel way of taking part in the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle. Organised by the hospital’s Renal Physiotherapy Team, they are clocking up the kilometres during their intradialytic exercise sessions over the course of a week. Patients of all ages and abilities have taken part and had reached their target of 170km, the charity cycle distance, and decided keep going strong. Orlaith Heslin, Senior Renal Physiotherapist in Tallaght University Hospital, “Our patients in Tallaght University Hospital participate regularly in our physiotherapy-run intradialytic exercise programme which has been running since 2021. Participants complete either cycling on a specialised Motomed bike or resistance training with weights. It provides an opportunity for our patients to exercise despite the challenges of regular hospital commutes and limited exercise opportunities and has significant benefits for physical function and quality of life. The IKA virtual cycle for the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle has created great excitement over the past week for both patients and staff on the unit and we were delighted to take part!”

The Ring of Kerry Charity cycle event, which has now raised close to €20 million for more than 170 charities and worthy causes, was initially founded by two Killarney stalwarts, Theresa Looney and Denis Geaney, who set about raising funds to build a dialysis centre in Tralee for Kerry patients who had to travel to Cork for their treatment in the absence of a local treatment centre. Theresa’s husband Pat Looney cycled in the inaugural cycle and now four decades later will once again take on the challenge.

“We are thrilled to see such a remarkable group of participants this year”, said ROKCC founding member and Kerry IKA branch representative Theresa Looney “Their stories of generosity and resilience highlight the importance of our mission and the incredible difference that organ donation can make.”

Over the past four decades the annual Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle event has  gone from strength to strength and is now a massive sportive on the annual cycling calendar, both nationally and beyond.

Volunteers have always been the heart of the Irish Kidney Association, and this year was no exception. Dedicated volunteers were on hand, at the start/finish areas and at the official feeding station along the route in Caherciveen. These IKA volunteers joined the cyclists later that evening for a celebratory reception for friends and supporters of the IKA at the Shire Bar & Cafe in Killarney, where the winners of the raffle organised by the Kerry Branch of the Irish Kidney Association — featuring fantastic prizes to the value of €8,000 will be announced. Online entries for the raffle will close at 6pm on Friday, 5th July and tickets can be purchased up until then through a link on the website www.ika.ie/ringofkerry

Supporters are encouraged to leave messages for the cyclists on the Irish Kidney Association’s Cycle Stadium page which can also be accessed on the website page www.ika.ie/ringofkerry

This year’s Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle continues the legacy of the Irish Kidney Association, which has been at the forefront of organ donation promotion and kidney health advocacy and support for kidney patients and their families since 1978. The funds raised for the Irish Kidney Association will go towards essential services and supports for kidney patients and their families and carers, research, and raising awareness about kidney disease and organ donation.

The annual cycle event is not just a fundraiser; it is a celebration of life, health, and community. Participants and supporters are encouraged to join the event and cheer on the riders as they pedal towards a healthier future for all.

As part of the numerous supports the Irish Kidney Association provides, the IKA Munster Kidney Support Centre in Cork was officially opened by the newly nominated EU commissioner Michael McGrath TD last Saturday, 29th June. This centre, located just 200 metres from Cork University Hospital, offers overnight accommodation and a drop-in hub, staffed by three dedicated professionals, and provides this ‘home away from home’ facility free of charge to patients and their families and carers who travel to the hospital for treatment.

For more information about the event or to make a donation, please visit www.ika.ie/ringofkerry

Find out more about some of the ambassadors for the IKA in the ROKCC   

Pat Looney, Kerry  https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/PatLooney399

Liz Fenton  https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/LizFenton226

Alan Cullen, Carlow https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/AlanCullen535

Bryan Duignan, Carlow https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/BryanDuignan362

Joan McDonald, Cork https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/JoanMcDonald

Francis Hogan, Tipperary  https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/francishogan

Martin Malinowski, Monaghan https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/MartinMalinowski678

Una Flynn, Kerry    https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/UnaFlynn808

Shane O’Connell, Kerry https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/ShaneOConnell327

Eve Moynihan & Kerry friends  https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/EveMoynihan618

7-year-old Kerry Kidney patient Cíalan Walsh from Waterville who will need a kidney transplant  https://www.idonate.ie/raffle/IrishKidneyAssociationRaffle

 

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For further information contact:

Gwen O’Donoghue, tel 086 8241447 email gwen@ika.ie