Woman pledges to walk 50 miles around her garden for cancer charity

A 74-year-old woman has pledged to walk laps of her garden until she clocks up almost 50 miles, all in aid of the charity which assisted her husband when he had cancer.
Woman pledges to walk 50 miles around her garden for cancer charity

A volunteer delivering groceries to cancer patients who are cocooning
A volunteer delivering groceries to cancer patients who are cocooning

A 74-year-old woman has pledged to walk laps of her garden until she clocks up almost 50 miles, all in aid of the charity which assisted her husband when he had cancer.

Janet Smyth from Shankill in Dublin began her quest on Tuesday and aims to walk at least 4km a day around the garden in a bid to cover the equivalent of two marathons, although given its size, she’s also taking in a route which includes climbing up and down the stairs of the home she shares with husband, William.

Given the rate at which she is clocking up the kilometres - 6.3km on Tuesday and 3.7km by lunchtime on Wednesday - a by-product will be that it keeps the grass down.

Janet Smyth aims to walk at least 4km a day around the garden.
Janet Smyth aims to walk at least 4km a day around the garden.

“William won’t have to cut the grass for a long time,” Janet said. “It’s like having a donkey in the garden.”

Janet said she has been fundraising for Purple House, a Bray-based support organisation for people with cancer and their families, for a number of years and as a regular walker in nearby Shanganagh Park, now out of bounds due to the lockdown, decided to replicate her daily walks in her garden.

William, 76, had cancer 12 years ago and is now in good health.

He also has some athletic pedigree - a former member of the Donore Harriers club, he ran at international level and his best time for the marathon is an impressive two hours 29 minutes.

Janet said: “I think if I can average 4km a day for the next few weeks. I shouldn’t have a problem.”

Donations are being received through the social media platforms of the Purple House Cancer Support Centre. Its manager, Conor O’Leary, said the lockdown means people are coming up with novel ways of raising funds for charities.

He said many organisations are now “in crisis mode” but added: “We provide the services first and worry about how we can pay for it afterwards.”

A volunteer delivering groceries to cancer patients who are cocooning
A volunteer delivering groceries to cancer patients who are cocooning

Purple House supports around 1,500 people a year from a broad catchment area, and is also offering online support and telephone counselling for clients and their families during the current period of restrictions.

The organisation will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year and Conor said it is “really heartening” to see the efforts being made to raise money at a time when regular fundraising activities have been impeded by the coronavirus.

That has also seen volunteers assisting on behalf of Purple House delivering groceries to cancer patients who are cocooning.

In a separate video, cancer patient Ray Blake, who is being assisted by Purple House, spoke about the impact of cocooning and added: “The one thing I miss is hugging my grandkids.”

Ray Blake asks people to stay home this Easter.
Ray Blake asks people to stay home this Easter.

Given her athletic efforts, Janet is sanguine about the lockdown.

“People keep saying - and it’s getting on my wick - ‘when this is all over’. Feck off, we have to just focus on today.”

The fundraising efforts have also received the backing of the Wheel, the National Association of charities and community and voluntary groups which has a network of 1,700 member organisations across Ireland.

It is currently running a campaign focused on the good work of charities and community groups called #CommunityResponseIRL and are posting video and other material to highlight those efforts on its Twitter feed and at wheel.ie.

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