*Leah Walsh, Heidi Warner, Willow Warner, Sorlaith Vaughan and Aine Counihan. Photograph: John Mangan

AN INSPIRATIONAL girl from East Clare celebrated her sixth birthday by completing a 100km cycle to raise funds for the Irish Guide Dogs.

Willow Warner who attends O’Callaghan’s Mills National School was just five years old – and not long out of stabilisers – when she decided to take the leap of faith and start the incredible fundraiser.

Willow completed the 100km cycle in sections with the help of her parents, Andrew and Trisha, and seven-year old sister Heidi. Last Friday her schoolmates and junior infants teacher, Ms Gráinne Conlon, welcomed Willow at O’Callaghan’s Mills NS as she completed the final leg of her 100km marathon alongside Dad Andrew.

“She was completely overwhelmed,” Andrew told The Clare Echo. “They made banners and were chanting her name. She didn’t know what to do but thankfully Trisha was there for her. She was delighted, obviously, only when she saw the kids coming out did she realise what she did was such a big deal.”

Willow was inspired to take on the challenge by her dad Andrew, who has completed a number of charity cycles, and her granny who has regularly fundraised for the National Council of the Blind. Andrew explained that Willow’s favourite animals are dogs, adding, “When I explained to her what the Irish Guide Dogs do, she got emotional and couldn’t get over that she could get dogs to people who need them.”

Andrew describes it as “incredible” that Willow completed 100km cycle. “She completed the cycle over about 25 journeys, it was a huge effort. Five kilometres at a time on 18inch wheels is massive.”

Andrew explained that Willow overcame the more challenging days by using her imagination, “We came up with the idea that she was on a rocket ship and she was going to the moon or the stars, she got through it with stuff like that.”

Willow turned six last Saturday and Andrew laughs that Willow “is done with cycling” for the foreseeable future. Andrew thanked Willow’s classmates for their “huge contribution”, along with her teammates at Kilkishen Camogie Club and his work colleagues at Maverick in Ballina.

Willow has raised €1,360 to date. If you would like to make a donation, please visit her idonate page at https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/willows100k.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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