The 21st annual Tour de Munster passed through County Clare on Friday, with 157 cyclists taking to the roads in support of Munster Down Syndrome Ireland branches.
Marking the second day of the 600km cycle organised by Cork man Paul Sheridan, the cohort cycled through Cratloe, Quin, Ennis, Kildysart and Killimer, on their way to the ferry to Tarbert in Kerry.
They were met with a heart-warming reception in Clare as bucket shakers took to the streets in an effort to raise vital funds for the Clare branch of Down Syndrome Ireland. All of the money raised within the county will go towards the Clare branch, Down Syndrome Clare Committee Treasurer Laura Cahir informed.
“It’s great to see so many people out here until 6pm this evening,” she stated, adding that “most of the cyclists participating have no links to down syndrome but are doing it for the good cause”.
Over the last 18 months, fundraising efforts became more challenging through restrictions. Marking the biggest fundraiser for the Clare branch during the year, Laura intoned that the generosity of the Clare people would go a long way to assisting families with the return to vital services provided by the Clare branch such as swimming lessons, therapeutic horse riding as well as speech and occupational therapy.
She added that many of those within the Clare branch had extended family members shaking buckets as wide as Killaloe or Miltown Malbay.
Mary Eyers from Coolmeen, who enjoys reading Ronan Scully’s articles each week in The Clare Echo put in two shifts at the back entrance of Dunnes Stores on O’ Connell Street in Ennis, in support of the service that caters for her “beautiful five-year-old grandson.” She stated that “the services can be quite costly, and so the Clare branch help out my daughter with her son. People have been great here all day and the cyclists were mighty.”
Laura, who has been on the committee for five years now, joining after having her son Matthew (6), credit the service, saying that last week a lady who was pregnant rang, having been told that her child will be born with Down Syndrome. She stated that parents often go into shock or have withdrawals when they find out, but it is lovely to have a network of similar children either younger or older than yours, with advice being offered at all directions.
She feels that in recent years the stigma has been breaking down surrounding Down Syndrome, and that celebratory days and occasions like the Tour de Munster or World Down Syndrome Day in March are helping facilitate this. “Last year I went into a school to talk to younger children. I used lego blocks as an analogy, explaining that we are all born with 46 blocks, but sometimes, one of us is born with 47. They may not have six fingers or three legs, but this extra block forms in their heart. It may take them longer to run or to speak clearly, but they are just like you”.