On 29th June last 18 skydivers from Clonmel parachuted from 13,000 feet in a fundraising venture for the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association.
Among the dare-devil group were an 81 year-old retired nurse, Fran Sheehan, and a young 72 year-old GAA administrator, Eileen Boland.
Both ladies have had first hand family experiences of the effects of this incurable neurological condition, and both wanted to give something back in return.
Eileen’s late husband Charlie “spent 17 years on the flat of his back with the disease.” For all that time she cared for him and knows only too well how difficult it can be on families in similar situations.
Fran’s daughter-in-law died at a young age also leaving behind a young family. Fran too has witnessed the suffering and heartbreak associated with Motor Neurone Disease.
Together with 16 others, Fran and Eileen thought it would be great if they could do something in return for the IMNDA who are wonderful in the assistance they provide for families who members are affected by MND.
But forget table quizzes or cake sale or coffee mornings, or anything else that you might associate with boring..... why not a sky dive?
So off they all went to Clonbulloge outside Edenderry, County Offaly and a 13,000 feet skydive!
Fran with her good friend, the experienced sky-diver Eileen (she did one two years ago for Crumlin Hospital) were the eldest and they ranged in age all the way down to the youngest, Eileen’s granddaughter, teenager Rachel Delahunty (15).
Fran explained how she had to be “certified” to do the jump by her own doctor and how he laughed when she told him why she wanted a cert of clean health.
Of the dive itself Fran said “We went up in threes - Eileen was first out, having done one before, then the youngest of the group, Rachel Delahunty jumped, then it was my turn.”
“Getting out was the worst part, it’s very cold at 13,000 feet, but when the big parachute went up it was fine after that.”
Eileen interjected to say “the rest was only a doddle” once the parachute opened. We’ll take her word for it!
“All in all it took about 20 minutes, 10 minutes to get up in the plane and the rest coming down.”
Besides all who took part in the dive Fran singled out Danielle Delahunty for special mention for organising the whole thing from start to finish.
For the record the 19 skydivers were:
Danni Delahunty, Eileen Boland, Fran Sheehan, Anita Norris, Michael Delahunty, Michael Boland, Caoimhe Dougan, Aine Dougan, Antoinette Dougan, Niamh Hanrahan, Gemma O’Dwyer, Ann O’Dwyer, Carmel Boyle, Stacey Long, Shauna Caffrey and Fiona Donnelly.
It was an extra proud day for the fully fledged skydiver Eileen as four of her grandchildren, fledglings so to speak, also took part - Michael, Danni and Rachel Delahunty and Anita Norris.
Fran, Eileen and the rest of the flying troupe, are now appealing to the public to donate to their special account at Clonmel Credit Union. The number of the account is 42455.