‘We’ll ensure Donal’s message isn’t forgotten’

The parents of inspirational teenager Donal Walsh are determined to keep his memory alive by continuing to spread his message, which touched a chord not only in Ireland, but around the world.

‘We’ll ensure Donal’s message isn’t forgotten’

Fionnbar and Elma Walsh said they have been overwhelmed by the reaction to their 16-year-old son, who passionately highlighted teenage suicide while he was battling terminal cancer.

They revealed that €150,000 has been raised for Crumlin Hospital in the name of the teenager, who campaigned for suicide awareness, along with cancer research and improved facilities for teenagers in hospitals and hospices, in the months before he died in May.

In the interview, which will be aired on Monday on TV3’s Ireland AM, Ms Walsh said Donal’s family now want to be able to ensure that Donal’s voice is not forgotten.

“He was on television for 19 minutes and the effect it has had on people is just phenomenal,” she said.

Ms Walsh, who said the family is going to set up a foundation in Donal’s name, believes her deeply spiritual son is now looking after his family.

“We’re coping as best we can,” she said. “We haven’t been through this before so we’re just coping the best that we can. It’s one step at a time.

“I tell him to look after us and mind us and he will. He promised us he would. He said he would look after us all.”

In his last years, the sports-mad teenager had forged friendships with his Munster Rugby heroes and the Kerry footballers, and had even been contacted by All-Blacks legend Dan Carter.

Ms Walsh said the family were touched when the Munster players showed their respect for Donal by carrying his coffin at his funeral.

“He was mad about rugby in general but Munster rugby in particular,” she said. “All the friends he made in it.

“The testament was the pall-bearing they did for him. We never asked them to come down, they just appeared on the day. We knew about it maybe 24 hours beforehand. They were very good.

“What I couldn’t get over the day of his funeral was the quietness of the town of Tralee. All the shops closed. He got a round of applause all the way through town.”

Ms Walsh said the Kerry team also had a special place in Donal’s heart.

“He was a mad GAA fan and the Kerry team were a credit. They took him out one night to a private training session. Mark O’Shea , his teacher... they were all fantastic.”

Mr Walsh said one of his proudest months was watching his son walk on The Saturday Night Show to speak to the nation about the teenage issues close to his heart.

He said: “One of the strongest [memories] for me was the night he went on the Brendan O’Connor show and he walked on.

“He had spent the day in the wheelchair. It was his first full day in the wheelchair. He was asked if he wanted to walk on or brought on but he was determined to fight it.”

Ms Walsh said their goal now is to help other teenagers like Donal.

“He had two major messages,” she said. “One was teenage facilities in hospitals. When you go into hospitals and into the children’s wards, which are for up to 18-year-olds, it’s all Disney and Winnie the Pooh.

“There isn’t a lot there for teenagers, especially in hospices.

“Donal was in a state-of-the-art hospice in Cork. I couldn’t fault it. I couldn’t fault the staff in any of the hospitals or anything like that. It’s just the facilities need a bit of consideration.

“His second message was teen suicide, to keep suicide awareness in teenagers.

“We’re in talks of organising something just to keep it aware in that age group and keep it alive.”

Mr Walsh said they have been overwhelmed by the support from people all over the world.

“You throw a stone into a pond and there is a ripple,” he said. “This boy threw a rock into the ocean and it literally spreads across the globe.”

- The full interview with Elma and Fionnbar Walsh will air on Ireland AM on TV3 on Monday.

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