It is said that all good things must come to an end, and so it was with a heavy heart but also with great pride that members of the extended Ryan family and their friends gathered in Bunratty Folk Park to launch this year’s Pakie Ryan Memorial event for the last time.

Lisa O'Neill with Lilly, Abbie and Grace Ryan at the launch of 2017 Pakie Ryan event at Bunratty Folk Park Bunratty on March 7, 2017. Photo by Eugene McCafferty

Lisa O’Neill with Lilly, Abbie and Grace Ryan at the launch of 2017 Pakie Ryan event at Bunratty Folk Park Bunratty on March 7, 2017. Photo by Eugene McCafferty

Since his untimely passing in April 2009, the Ryan family, with the support of the Newmarket-on-Fergus community, have celebrated the life of one of their favourites sons with an annual event that has raised in excess of €250,000 for a number of local charities. Participants can choose from competitive and fun running, walking and cycling events. Its popularity has attracted entrants from all over the country, unfortunately this year’s event on Saturday 1st April will be the last after seven remarkable years.

Kevin Clancy of Clare's Wish and Anthony O'Looney

Kevin Clancy of Clare’s Wish and Anthony O’Looney

Launching the Pakie Ryan Memorial in Bunratty Folk Park, committee chairman Anthony O’Looney reflected on those great times and invited people to come out and make this year the best ever. Anthony recalled hatching plans for the first event in the Ryan’s kitchen and said those present could never have expected the success that would follow. “It far exceeded all our expectations and became a huge event, maybe too big for a voluntary group of people, but it’s great that we will finish on such a high.”

Mr O’Looney told how the committee distributed has more than €250,000 to charities in Clare and Limerick, with some new charity added every year. He then invited representative from five charities to say their piece.

Clare’s Wish

First to speak was Kevin Clancy of the Clare’s Wish Foundation, a Limerick charity set up in 2013 to remember his sister Clare who died at the tender age of 24. Kevin thanked the committee for nominating Clare’s Wish as one of the recipients of this year’s Pakie Ryan Memorial. As a very new organisation, Clare’s Wish is the only Irish charity to grant a final wish to adults with a terminal condition.

Since its foundation the charity has granted 30 wishes from its base, Roselawn House, in the National Technology Park. In January the first charity shop was opened. Kevin hopes that the shop will help fund many more wish events and emphasisied that they are very grateful to the Pakie Ryan Memorial committee for their inclusion.

Clare Crusaders

Ann Norton of Clare Crusaders speaking at the launch of 2017 Pakie Ryan event at Bunratty Folk Park

Ann Norton spoke on behalf of Clare Crusaders, one of the charities supported by the Pakie Ryan Memorial from the beginning, to say she is sorry that this will be the final year of the event. “It’s been a fantastic seven years and I would say that it will end on a fantastic note this year.” She said Clare Crusaders have been extremely lucky to receive funding every year from the committee to help more than 470 children.

Ann commented, “Clare Crusaders wouldn’t be around today only for the likes of the Pakie Ryan.” Thanking the Ryan family, she said she has made many friends along the way. Although she hadn’t known Pakie Ryan personally, Ann said she is delighted to now know the rest of the family. “This event has been a credit to the Ryan family and it’s something that I look forward to as it’s such a fantastic success story and I truly am going to miss it,” said Ann.

She added, “I look back over the years at how the kids have grown so much, not only all the Ryan kids but all the kids in the Clare Crusaders clinic, and you’re support has been fantastic”.

Rape Crisis Centre

Speaking on behalf of the Midwest Rape Crisis Centre, Mary Howard said the Ryan family must take great comfort from the fact that Pakie is no longer thought of with tears but with pride as the event in his memory has raised over quarter of a million euro in seven years “and that’s no mean feat”.

“It’s a credit to the Ryan family and to all the volunteers who have been involved in an event that has become part of our calendar for the year. To know now that it is finishing is quite emotional.”

Representing the Midwest Rape Crisis Centre were Verena Tarpey, Mary Howard, Shona O'Flynn, Miriam Duffy and Robert McCutcheon at the lunch of 2017 Pakie Ryan event at Bunratty Folk Park Bunratty on March 7, 2017. Photo by Eugene McCafferty

Representing the Midwest Rape Crisis Centre were Verena Tarpey, Mary Howard, Shona O’Flynn, Miriam Duffy and Robert McCutcheon

An advocate with the Rape Crisis Centre for the last seven years, Mary acknowledged that many charities are doing amazing work, but added that the fundraising element can be difficult for her particular charity. When she first became involved Mary said she was shocked to learn that many of their clients, both male and female, had been sexually assaulted as children.

This is the second year to receive the support of the Pakie Ryan, Mary said the charity really appreciates all that has been done and she wished the Ryan family and all the volunteers “a big buala bás”.

Saoirse

Tony Galvin, co-founder of Saoirse Addiction Centre in Limerick, told how the charity opened in 2012 to support people with all forms of addiction including, alcohol, drugs, gambling etc. Saoirse provides services free of charge to people in Clare and Limerick, there is no waiting list but Tony acknowledged that they are just about coping with more and more people coming to avail of the service.

While Saoirse receives some funding from the State, Tony said, “we refurbished our Davis Street premises last year, it was work that we could never have done had it not been for the support from the Pakie Ryan committee. “Now, it’s presentable, we can bring in people and our clients have somewhere acceptable to go, we could never have done that without the Pakie Ryan Memorial. I can’t really express in words how valuable that support was for Saoirse.”

He said Saoirse is primarily for people who can’t afford to use other similar facilities, “our clients are generally not financially secure and that makes the whole thing worthwhile,” he said. Tony described seeing how Saoirse has helped change peoples’ lives for the better. He thanked the Pakie Ryan committee for their continuing support.

Sláinte an Chláir

Finally Antoinette from Clare Cancer Support group Sláinte an Chláir told how money from the Pakie Ryan Memorial funded new beds, including massage beds and therapy chairs last year. Sláinte an Chláir is for people who have had cancer. Antoinette pointed out that medical advances may have helped many people to overcome cancer but added, “as you recover, they don’t know what to do with us”.

Recovering cancer patients still have aches and pains, but she said there wasn’t really any place people could go apart from Limerick Hospital and many are reluctant to return after being through the oncology unit. Sláinte an Chláir is based in Kilnamona and is an informal setting where people of all ages gather. The centre is staffed by volunteers and its services are supported through local fundraising.

“It’s hard, work,” said Antoinette adding, “but with the Pakie Ryan there was no work on the day, we supported them and didn’t have to do anything only smile for the big cheque, which was fantastic!” As the centre receives no State funding, Sláinte an Chláir is totally dependent on the goodwill of the people of Clare. “Please God,” she said, “you will never need our services, but if you do they are there for you. Even if you had cancer five years ago and feel that you need to talk to someone, or need some therapies, it’s never too late and you won’t be turned away. “Whether you are having treatment or are in post-treatment, there is always a place for you,” said Antoinette.

Conclusion

Anthony O’Looney said it is great to know all the work that is being done by the recipient charities. “It’s unsung work, many people don’t realise what goes on behind the scenes. On behalf of the Pakie Ryan Memorial committee, we’re delighted to support all these charities”.

The final speaker was John Ruddle of Shannon Heritage, host of the launch event. “We’re delighted to be involved again with the Pakie Ryan, especially after hearing from all these charities as I hadn’t realised how much has been done with the support of the Pakie Ryan funding.” John made a classic faux pas when he spoke of completing the Pakie Ryan cycle event a couple of times and then proceeded to acknowledge the support of the community in Sixmilebridge!

David Sheedy and Paul Tuohy

David Sheedy and Paul Tuohy

Some things will always bring out old rivalries but the charitable folk of Newmarket-on-Fergus present were more than willing to overlook the sentiment after calling John out on his mistake! The finger of blame was immediately pointed at Paul Tuohy, the former Newmarket man is now resident in Sixmilebridge and had been seen speaking with John.

“Anything that can bring our communities together can’t be a bad thing,” said someone present. That is certainly true of the Pakie Ryan Memorial event, an inspirational example of community at it’s very best.