Family of charitable London Irish woman take on epic walk across Ireland in her memory
Life & Style

Family of charitable London Irish woman take on epic walk across Ireland in her memory

THE children of an Irish woman whose charitable endeavours in London helped many have taken on a fundraising challenge in her memory.

Nessa O'Neill was a founding trustee of the Irish Youth Foundation (IYF) but sadly died in 2009 following a battle with cancer.

Well-known in London's Irish circles and loved for her flamboyant personality, she was also instrumental in launching the Women's Irish Network with Co. Clare woman Mary Clancy in 1998.

Braving the weather

Now, almost a decade on for her untimely passing, her three children are hoping to raise over £10,000 to support IYF UK projects.

Ciara Brett, an events manager with Google UK, was joined by her two siblings Ferga and Malachy on a five day hike across Ireland in their mother’s memory.

Nessa O'Neill (Picture: Malcolm McNally)

The group walked over 130kilometres from Dublin to Carlow across the Wicklow Mountains over five days from May 28 to June 1.

IYF Chairman John Dwyer and London chef Richard Corrigan were there to see the family off at the start of their epic walk.

They have since raised over £7,000 of their target.

You can donate to the O'Neill family fundraiser HERE

"What started as a barely serious idea over a few pints in the pub started gaining momentum very quickly as we realised that this was going to be a bit more than a gentle stroll through Wicklow villages with lengthy stoppages each day for lunch," Ciara joked.

"Once the boots had been worn in though, we were ready to go.

"Even though we battled adversities such as rogue bee stings, allergies to walking socks and probably most damaging, an inability to read a map between us, once we were in our stride we never enjoyed anything so much.

Ms Brett, who as an IYF trustee and WIN board member has followed in her mother's philanthropic footsteps, added: "The fact that people kept adding to the sponsorship pile throughout kept us motivated on the long days, as well as the thought of a comfy bed at the end of it.

"We met incredible people along the way, all with tales of their own to tell, and we've all returned eager for the next challenge.

"It's been rewarding for all of us in so many ways, but the fact that we've managed to raise so much for the IYF has really been the cherry on the top."

The Irish Youth Foundation works to help disadvantaged young Irish people and their families.

Since its foundation, over £4.5million in grants supporting a projects including help for the homeless; employment and training schemes; women and children escaping violence; young offenders; Irish Travellers; mental health; drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes; cross-community initiatives as well as social and cultural activities encouraging young people’s awareness of their Irish heritage.

A well-deserved pint after five days of walking

The IYF Nessa O'Neill Award was also set up in 2010 to celebrate the unsung heroes who make a real difference by contributing to the important work of welfare and community groups supported by the IYF in Britain.

Previous winners have included Shelagh O’Connor, Director of New Horizon Youth Centre (2010); Patricia McEntee, Fundraiser, SCAT Bone Cancer Trust (2011); Teresa Gallagher, Founder & President of ICAP (2012); Sister Mary Lawrence, St John Bosco Youth Club (2013) and Mavis O’Connor, Community Care Worker, Irish Community Care Merseyside (2015).

To donate to the O'Neill family fundraiser click HERE