Annual Clonaslee walk for Laois Hospice a virtual success

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

There was disappointment for the organisers of the Clonaslee St Stephen's Day Walk this year when they took the hard decision to make it a virtual event in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was the 28th year of the traditional walk which attracts thousands of supporters each year to walk 5km or 10km in the Slieve Bloom mountains. It has raised over €1 million for Laois Hospice in that time, lately raising over €30,000 a year such is its popularity .
Sheila Bourke is the main organiser, backed by huge local support in the village.
“Going virtual was the only thing we could do, “Christmas night was really strange, we all didn't know what to be doing with ourselves,” she said.
Volunteers set up the virtual event instead and as they requested, the walkers took photos of themselves walking in their own locality in the days after Christmas day, and donated online, or directly to Sheila.
“It went well. We really appreciate everyone who contacted us and we thank them for adhering to the guidelines,” she said.
So far walkers have donated almost €6,000 online and rising.
Sheila has also lodged €1,500 given to her in direct donations and these can be made up to the end of March.
“It's nothing like we would normally get but it keeps the momentum going for the 29th walk next year, please God Covid free,” she said.
There is a silver lining for Sheila too as instead of being knee deep in sandwiches, fruitcake and paperwork, she was able to go on her very first Laois Hospice walk.
“It felt lovely, a crisp morning, I always kept saying I'd walk it,” she said.
The soup station volunteers also had unexpected free time. They normally spend all day handing out welcome soup halfway into the long route.
Instead they gathered for a photo at the spot, led by the unstoppable Chris Horan, 92, who began the tradition and still makes soup.
Donations can be made online until January 17. Click here for the JustGiving donation page. 
A formal cheque presention will be made to Laois Hospice in April.