Spread your wings: Two challenges to raise funds for Debra Ireland

Helen O’Callaghan on two events to help children with EB

This time next week, 45-year-old Dublin mum Pauline Leaney will be just north of the Arctic Circle, staying in a woodcutter’s lodge with no running water or electricity — she’ll be running out into bone-chilling minus 27-degree temperatures to wash herself in an outdoor sauna.

Launched last year by butterfly skin charity Debra Ireland, the five-day Arctic Challenge is for women only and 30 are signed up to do it next week.

“Every day, we’ll collect logs and break through ice to get water. We’re spending one night outside,” says Pauline, whose motivation is meeting children with EB (epidermolysis bullosa), a rare, incredibly painful genetic condition that causes skin, both inside and out, to blister and wound at slightest touch.

It’s not the only challenge for Debra Ireland that Pauline has set herself. For six years now, the first date that goes into her calendar every January is the three-day Kerry Challenge, which she does with husband Mark.

This year, the event runs from May 24-26 and features three days trekking though the Dingle Peninsula (up to 25km daily) followed by nights socialising in Dingle.

With a campaign titled ‘Dump your Phone for Debra’, the charity’s encouraging participants to take a screen break that’ll help them and also benefit EB sufferers.

Beautician Pauline uses social media extensively to promote her business. She’s looking forward to “connecting with the beauty of the mountains” when she does the Kerry Challenge.

“It’s the best therapy. You see people out for walks or in the gym and they’re still on their phone. I’ve been in Pilates class where people answer their phone.

“I’m self-employed. In the evenings, the TV’s on in the background. I’m on the phone, making appointments, responding to clients. My husband’s on his laptop after working all day.”

And with one of the Kerry Challenge hikers a professional photographer who takes “amazing pictures”, Pauline doesn’t feel there’ll be any need to take out her phone to snap photos.

Debra Ireland’s Kerry Challenge costs €300 per person (includes two nights’ accommodation, all meals and snacks, transport to/from route each day and on-site physiotherapy). Participants are asked to raise further €350 to support those living with EB.

Register/more info at www.debraireland.org; email kerrychallenge@debraireland.org; call 01-412 6924.

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