He started a hero and finished a superhero.
Inspirational Oliver Lynch, eight, who captured hearts with his guts and determination finished his remarkable fundraising walk in Cork today after raising €31,000 for three charities.
With neighbours and friends cheering him on every step of the way, and with gardaí, members of Cork City Fire Service, and the National Ambulance Service’s bike-mounted paramedics looking on, there were emotional scenes outside his home in Ballincollig as he crossed the finish line — into the warm embrace of his family.
Oliver has cerebral palsy and epilepsy and has been walking 100-metres in his walking frame every day since mid-April to raise money for three charities that help him — Enable Ireland, Dogs for the Disabled and the CUH Charity.
Hugging his son at the finish line, dad Kevin said: “We are just lost for words. He started a hero and finished a champion, an absolute superhero.”
Flanked by his proud twin brother, Reuben, and their big sister, Caoimhe, his mum Alison said: “We are just so proud and thankful to everybody — the support has been amazing. It was about getting him moving, getting him strong and it has brought huge benefits to him and we are going to keep going.
"Who knows — he could be running a marathon in a few years if he puts his mind to it.”
When asked what his plans are now, Oliver said: “I plan to take over the world.”
But Alison said he has to keep his daily walks up first to maintain the strength he has developed during the lockdown.
Lord Mayor Cllr Joe Kavanagh said he was moved to tears watching Oliver: “In difficult times like the Covid pandemic, we need heroes, we need people like Oliver to bring people together, to bring communities together and showcase resilience.
"His resilience, his strength of character is typical of the resilience of the people of Cork."
Taoiseach Micheál Martin was among the first to send congratulations. In a special video message, Mr Martin paid tribute to him for raising so much money: “I can’t believe the amount of money you’ve raised, it’s fantastic, you deserve great credit."
Oliver, a student of Gaelscoil Uí Riordáin in Ballincollig, became frustrated that he couldn't join Reuben and Caoimhe, in their couch-to-5k challenge during lockdown so he set himself an ambitious exercise target to walk 5,000-metres.
Some days, it took him 40-minutes to complete his session. But he got faster and stronger, and after raising €5,000 in a few days, he doubled his target and kept going. Donations poured in.
The President, Michael D Higgins, hailed him a hero: “As President of Ireland, it makes me very proud to hear of young people like you who are kind, thoughtful and determined to do good for others. There can be no doubt that you are one of life’s great heroes."
Maeve Power, of the CUH Charity, said everyone has been inspired by Oliver’s bravery: “Oliver, as well as a lot of other children, have shown amazing resilience during the lockdown and amazing fundraising capabilities so when we first heard of this, we were so inspired, he’s taken on such an amazing challenge."
Their share of the money will be used to upgrade a telemetry room in Cork University Hospital where children with epilepsy are monitored: “The children spend a lot of time in this room so we plan to sound-proof it and put some entertainment in there for the children, because they spend a lot of time in there.
"And will put a plaque up outside the room to honour his fundraising effort as a special ‘thank you’ from the charity and the staff.”