MEET the Colemans — one of hundreds of families set to benefit from a huge charity cycle around Munster which rolls out today.
The Tour de Munster, supported by the Irish Examiner, will set off from Cork this morning on its annual four-day cycle around the province for Enable Ireland.
Irish cycling legend Sean Kelly will lead 77 amateur cyclists on the first leg of the 600km journey.
All funds raised will go towards the construction of a €4 million children’s services centre in Tralee.
Based in Oakview Village, it will have a pre-school, therapy room, multi-sensory room, physiotherapy gym and a small hydrotherapy pool.
Some of the funds will also help provide a sensory garden at the new Adult Respite House in Ladysbridge, east Cork, and improve transport services for Enable Ireland in Cork city.
Martin Coleman, 11, is one of hundreds of children who use this service.
His mum, Karen, said the family would be lost without the support of Enable Ireland and the fundraising efforts of the cyclists.
Aged 15 months, Martin was referred to Enable Ireland in Cork and, at two, he was diagnosed with Ataxia — the rarest form of cerebral palsy, which affects the part of the brain which controls coordination of movement, posture and balance.
Enable Ireland provided a team of physiotherapists, as well as occupational, speech and language therapists to work with him.
"Martin’s team couldn’t have been more supportive," Karen said. The former Irish swimming champion, who competed alongside Michele Smith de Bruin, was delighted recently when Martin swam unaided for the first time.
With support from Enable Ireland, the family is now building a house specially adapted for his needs, and is looking at secondary schools that will best suit him.
"We wouldn’t be without him for a minute," Karen said. "There is a twinkle of determination in his eye that has been there from an early age. When he was small and we used to go shopping, Martin insisted on carrying the packet of his favourite biscuits even though his poor balance meant he fell over all the time."
The Tour de Munster starts outside Cork’s City Hall this morning, bound for Fermoy, Tipperary and Killaloe. Tomorrow, cyclists will travel through Limerick, Listowel and Tralee, then on to Dingle, Killarney and Kenmare on Saturday.
The final stretch sees the cyclists tackling the Healy Pass, in to Glengarriff, Gougane Barra and back to Cork city.