It WILL be a sight not to be missed this Sunday afternoon, May 27, when over 130 cyclists taking part in the Sophie Cycle Run arrive into Portlaoise, proudly led by the National Ambulance Pipe Band.
It will mark the finish of a tough 250km fundraising cycle from Longford for the participants, but there will be lots of medical assistance on hand if required, as the two day cycle is being organised by paramedics from the National Ambulance Service North Leinster division.
All are asked to come out and cheer on the cyclists, who are expected to arrive at about 5pm, having travelled from Tullamore via Borris-in-Ossory and Mountrath. They will make their way up to Laois Shopping Centre, accompanied by the services’s motorbike unit. Fun cyclists are welcome to join the peleton at the old Lewis Opel garage on the Mountrath road, and travel through town with them.
Organiser Gerry McKeon says it is a first for the service to come out in such force, with band musicians travelling up from Cork and Dublin.
“It will be the one time people will be happy to see ambulances. Paramedics throughout the midlands are taking part, and other are helping by driving and organising food,” he said.
The fun run from Longford to Laois is to raise money for Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, in the name of six month old Sophie Mahon. The daughter of Portlaoise based paramedic Leona McDonald Mahon, she owes her short life to the care and facilities at the hospital.
Sophie was born in November 2011, criticially ill with renal failure, and was immediately transferred to Crumlin for kidney dialysis. The outlook was not good, as she also has two holes in her heart.
Sophie thrived however, and two weeks ago she finally came home to Mountbolus in Tullamore. She will continue her 18 hours of daily dialysis there.
“It’s a huge achievement for a baby that size. She has great back-up from Crumlin. She is doing very well. When she is two or three years old she can have a kidney transplant. they will look for a match through her family. Her outlook is very good,” Gerry said.
They hope to raise €15,000 for the hospital, to be shared between the Renal Unit, Cardiology and the Cancer Unit.
Grand Marshall is Christy Kelly, a paramedic from Portlaoise, who thanked Laois Shopping Centre for their support.
“They have given us the use of the centre for a stationery bike, but we are looking for volunteers to take shifts cycling it, and to help us shake buckets,” he explained.
He emphasised that all the paramedics are doing the cycle on their days off, and a full ambulance service will still operate.
A barbecue for competitors and supporters will take place at Portlaoise GAA club on Sunday evening, with music by Abbeyfest.
Donations to Sophie’s Cycle can be made at any AIB branch. To take part in the cycle email email@example.com To volunteer help, call Christy at 086 8511118