Boston joins London's Irish community in getting behind Katie's quest for bionic arms

Boston joins London's Irish community in getting behind Katie's quest for bionic arms

KATIE O’HALLORAN never thought a conversation born in Connemara would bring her to Boston via London to meet with the city's Mayor Marty Walsh on the eve of a marathon steeped in symbolism. 

She never expected the momentum of her Born to Run campaign to move from The Saturday Night show through the Irish community in London, and Boston backstreets where Irish emigrants have been working hard to raise the €300,000 needed to secure her a set of bionic arms.

But the embrace of ‘three marathons in three countries in three weeks’ has widened and on Monday, O'Halloran - who was born with no arms and a deformed right leg - waited anxiously at the finish line for neighbour Michael Cloherty who has ground out the hard yards in this campaign.

Their journey has been a hopscotch of road miles and air miles from Connemara to London and now Boston where she has found significant support within the emigrant community and recently elected mayor, Marty Walsh.

“It’s surreal, unbelievable. I’m really surprised and glad that they [the Irish in Boston] think my story is something they can get behind,” said O’Halloran.

"I’m a bit nervous but I’m excited as well. When we started off doing the fundraising we were wondering how on earth we would raise that money.”

On Saturday night, Mayor Walsh, 46,  whose parents hail from Connemara, breezed into a benefit night in Freeport Hall, Dorchester, just around the corner from where he grew up. It’s part of town synonymous with Irish emigrants; where O'Halloran fundraising flyer's feature in every Irish bar from Adams Street to Dorchester Ave.

“The Irish community always supports their own and my uncle Peter has been very involved in the community and they asked me to get involved and help out a little bit," Walsh told The Irish Post. "I’m here to support Katie in all the efforts that are being done.

“This is very big and this is very big to Boston. It’s very important to the community and I want to be as supportive as I can be.

“I think there’s a bigger message - Katie is a very strong person and I think her story is a very compelling story and I like the fact that so many people all over the world, certainly Europe and America are supporting it. It’s unbelievable.”

Race officials estimated that a million spectators lined the 26.2 mile course travelled by 36,000 runners on Patriots Day . 

It was a symbolic commemoration following last years’s bombing attack which left three dead and 264 injured.

Human interest stories have dominated the pages of the Boston Globe and the Herald all week but the story of O’Halloran and the support she has found by way of the city’s Irish community and the equivalent in London has so too featured in cafes, bars and significantly, City Hall.

Three marathons in three weeks: Connemara, London and now Boston - the destinations were always planned but Michael Cloherty never envisaged such momentum and the support of some serious names.

The 38-year-old spoke of long cold winter nights pounding the road in Connemara but explained how the energy of the campaign carried him over the line to complete leg number one. 

“I was doing it for a huge cause. If I was just doing it for myself there would have been days I wouldn’t have bothered. But it was for Katie. We grew up near each other, our families know each other. That took the difficulty out of it whenever you are feeling bad. 

"The first one I did at home, Katie was with me at the finish line and I ran over with her. It really kick started the whole thing.”

O’Halloran had waited to cross with him then and she was there waiting at the finish on Boylston on Monday for a repeat as Cloherty’s steps move her closer to a set of prosthetic arms and, independence now embossed with a Boston mayoral stamp.

“It will transform my life really. To be able to do small tasks like shake a persons hand, carry a handbag, open doors. I’m just really happy that so many people have put in so much effort.”