The organisation was founded in 1998 by William and Mary McGrath to raise funds to support cancer patients living in West Clare. The inaugural event, a sponsored walk from Carrigaholt to Kilkee, with just 24 participants, was such a resounding success it henceforth became known as “The West Clare Mini Marathon”. It has become a West Clare landmark event, held annually on the last Sunday of January, and is synonymous with community spirit at its very best.
Falling as it does on the last Sunday of January, with the excesses of Christmas cast off and Spring in the air, people embrace the event with a renewed sense of energy, vitality and kinship. Rain, hail or shine, the day of the event is a joyous, festive occasion and is a testament to the indomitable human spirit, a community working together towards a common goal, united against a common enemy.
The Mini Marathon has grown in stature over the past 17 years; the 2010 event saw soaring participation levels rise to upwards of 1000 people and raise €183,000 in card sponsorship. In our lifetime, Cancer will touch 1 in 3 of us, directly or indirectly. Continuing to fight and prosper against this foe is only possible through the tireless efforts and tremendous generosity of our fund-raisers, our walkers, runners and joggers, committee members, neighbours, relatives and friends – our ‘unsung every-day heroes’.
In an act of extreme generosity, Bernie Gibson, late of Corry Lane, Kilkee, Co. Clare and Craughwell, Co. Galway, bequeathed her home to the Committee of the West Clare Mini Marathon. Bernie’s two bedroomed cottage by the sea subsequently became the West Clare Mini Marathon Cancer Care Centre.
The Centre is used as an office for the Committee and as a drop-in, non-referral service. No appointment is necessary to visit the Centre and it is here that people can access the services we have available. Professional counselling, including bereavement counselling, and complementary therapies can be availed of by all of the Centre’s clients. The support and assistance that the Centre has given to people over the years and its continued role in providing vital services to ever-increasing numbers of people and their families ensures that Bernie’s legacy will live on.
To date, close to two million euro has been raised for the provision of cancer care services in West Clare. Not a man to rest on his laurels, committee chairman Willie McGrath remains steadfast in his quest to ensure that the people of West Clare can continue to access cancer care services in as expeditious a manner as possible.
The provision and expansion of cancer care services for the people of West Clare truly is the ‘beating heart’ of the West Clare Mini Marathon charity, and it is when communities are united that projects come to fruition and dreams are realised.
Willie and Mary actively encourage people to continue fund-raising or to lend their support in event organisation, even if they don’t participate in the Mini Marathon. Anybody who has ever baked a cake or provided refreshments at their local school or community centre fund-raiser, or pounded the pavements selling raffle tickets has made a valuable contribution to the cause. Every effort matters.
In the words of American poet Gwendolyn Brooks, “We are each other’s harvest, we are each other’s business, we are each other’s magnitude and bond”.