Armagh Teacher takes a Long Walk Home to honour mother's dementia fight

A teacher from Armagh is trekking half way across Europe to raise money for dementia research.

Eamonn Donnelly, 50, and a friend have reached the halfway point in their 1,550-mile Long Walk Home from Graz in Austria to Northern Ireland to raise awareness of the debilitating condition.

Mr Donnelly's mother Margaret died in April 2014 aged 71 after developing a rare and aggressive form of the condition.

He said: "Frustrated and feeling helpless that nothing could be done to alleviate the symptoms, let alone cure this cruel disease, it became apparent to me and my family that much more needed to be done to understand and tackle it.

"The Long Walk Home is a very small step along the way to doing just that, hoping to raise awareness and much-needed funds for dementia research, while also honouring the life of an amazing wife, mother, grandmother and friend."

Eamonn Donnelly (left) and Sepp Tieber in Antheny. Pic: The Long Walk Home/PA Wire

Mr Donnelly lives in Graz but is from Keady in Co Armagh originally.

The pair have reached northern France, six weeks into the walk, as they make their way towards Calais, for the ferry to Dover in England.

They will then travel across England and Wales, before taking another ferry to Co Wexford, for the final leg northwards to Mr Donnelly's native home in Keady.

Mr Donnelly has lived in Austria, where he teaches English as a foreign language, since 1990.

He said an idea formed over a pint took on a whole new purpose after his mother's death.

"The journey so far has been marked by a mix of emotions. It's been tough and yet it's been amazing," he said.

"We've experienced the extremes of walking in 35 to 40-degree heat to facing the cold of the lower Alps."

It included three days of heavy thunderstorms in the mountain range.

"We have also been greatly encouraged by the kindness of human nature, both in person and through the online donations and support we have received for the trek," said Mr Donnelly.

"The generosity and curiosity from total strangers about our adventure has been truly inspiring and has, on more than one occasion, been the extra motivation to wake up and do another 35 to 40km the next day."

He said a cure for dementia seemed to be a distant dream.

"We strongly believe that we need to be exploring paths to eventually reach it and I hope that, in some very small way, The Long Walk Home might help answer some of the most fundamental questions surrounding the disease."

The men plan to reach Keady by early September.

Alzheimer's societies working in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK will benefit from money raised.

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