Cycling legend Sean Kelly and actress Aoibhín Garrihy were in Clare lately to launch the 17th annual Tour de Munster event.

This year’s four day charity cycle takes place from 10th to 13th August with over 100 amateur cyclists touring 600km around the province, raising funds for the Munster branches of Down Syndrome Ireland and individual beneficiaries.

This is the eighth successive year that the national charity will benefit of the popular cycle. Also this year for the first time cyclists have the option of selecting their own beneficiary to raise funds and awareness for.

The launch event was attended by over 160 invited guests, including representatives from various Munster branches of DSI and families supported by the charity, tour sponsors and many of the cyclists taking part this year. In 2016 the cycle raised €285,655 for charity, with over €1.9 million raised for DSI alone. Since 2001, Tour de Munster has raised over €2.4 million for its beneficiaries. The aim this year is to raise a further €250,000 for DSI.

Funds raised have made a tremendous difference to the lives of people with Down Syndrome by providing vital services and facilities in each county. The goal of DSI is to enable children born with Down Syndrome to be as independent as possible. Thanks to the efforts of Tour de Munster cyclists and supporters, DSI can help more young people with Down Syndrome develop and flourish in practical ways.

Speaking at the launch Sean Kelly said, “Each year from beginning to end the whole Tour de Munster is such an enjoyable and varied event. It is fantastic to meet everyone involved, especially the individuals benefitting from the funds raised and to watch the support for the tour grow year upon year.”

Tour de Munster organiser Paul Sheridan established the popular cycle in 2001, since then it has had a life changing impact on the lives of countless people through its fundraising efforts. Speaking at the launch Paul said, “The continued support we receive year in, year out, from all involved across Munster is what makes the tour so special.

“Down Syndrome Ireland is such a worthy beneficiary of the tour and we are thrilled to have them on board for an eight year, raising funds and vital awareness regarding the challenges faced by those affected with Down syndrome and their families.”

Phil Keohane, branch liaison officer stated, “I’m delighted and honoured to be a part of such an amazing event. You can see year on year that the cyclists involved in the Tour de Munster are truly committed to the partnership with Down Syndrome Ireland Munster branches. As a proud parent of a young boy with Down Syndrome, I am truly grateful to each and every cyclist that takes part for one year or for fourteen years.

“The people who take part in the Tour de Munster are amazing people who give their time to raise vital funds for the Munster branches and also become champions of Down Syndrome. Five years ago, I stood on St. Patrick’s hill after just coming out of hospital with my beautiful little boy who had been very ill and 150 cyclists gave everything they had to get up that hill and as each of them past I knew I was not alone, these people cared about my little boy and my family. It’s an amazing feeling to be a part of that and long may the partnership continue.”