A Mountain to Climb: Inspirational news from IPA Ireland

10 Oct 2021



irinsp5In IPA Ireland, members will be very familiar with the name, 'Annmarie Larkin (Brady)', one of the founding members of our hugely successful IPA Hiking Club. Annmarie was the Honorary Secretary of the club from its inception in 2018 until September 2020, when she handed over the responsibilities of the secretariat to Aoife Reilly. Together with club chairman Danny Devlin, Annmarie was instrumental in developing the club from its humble beginnings, with just a handful of members, to the present day, with a membership of over 220 energetic and dedicated hikers.

In those early day, their enthusiasm attracted members to take part in hikes in regional locations around the country, but soon that wouldn't be enough for Annmarie and Danny and their members, as they embarked on a hugely ambitious schedule of national and international mountain climbs, adding more and more challenges to the club's repertoire.

As a serving member of An Garda Síochána, wife and mother of little Alex, their 6-year-old daughter and busy Secretary of the IPA Hiking Club, Annmarie has always had a very full life and busy daily agenda. While the Covid-19 Pandemic stymied the activities of the IPA Hiking Club somewhat in the early days of summer 2020, there was still a lot of planning going on in relation to upcoming national and international events for club members.

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Then in July, Annmarie and her husband Aiden's world was thrown into total chaos when Alex developed swollen wrists and joints, and became more and moreincapacitated. Within six weeks, Alex had gone from being a chirpy six-year-old, full of life and activity, to a little girl who couldn't even walk when 'back to school' time came around. With the usual medical checks being carried out and test result after test result being examined, Alex was admitted to Cavan hospital, awaiting an available bed in Crumlin Children's Hospital. Annmarie speaks very highly of the care and treatment afforded Alex in Cavan hospital and in Crumlin Children's Hospital where she was given her diagnosis of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, a debilitating condition in children under sixteen years of age, causing inflammation in a joint or joints.

Around one child per thousand is affected, with upwards of eighteen hundred children affected in Ireland at any given time. Thankfully, treatment by way of medication can be very effective, but it does require a cocktail of medicines and close monitoring. The effects also cause the autoimmune system to be suppressed. Not something anyone wants in ordinary times and much less so in these days of a Pandemic. Following Alex's stay in Crumlin hospital, she had to cocoon at home for twelve weeks. It's hard to keep a six-year-old down, and so it was with Alex, especially when she began to feel a little better.

irinsp2Keeping that old adage 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree' in mind, it is easy to see why Alex wasn't going to let her condition keep her sitting still. Soon she was getting up to speed again and accompanying her mum Annmarie on her work as the Cavan/Monaghan 'Little Blue Heroes' representative. Then, earlier this year, Alex met two 'Little Blue Heroes' locally and immediately told her mum and dad that she wanted to do something to help them.

Following in mum's footsteps, she chose to do a sponsored climb of a mountain, to raise money for Little Blue Heroes, a Garda orientated and supported charity, which provides much-needed assistance to children suffering from chronic long-term illness. It is also supported in its work by IPA Ireland. Annmarie got to work, with Donegal's highest peak in Errigal mountain being chosen, and soon the offers of help from the IPA Hiking Club and Little Blue Heroes came rolling in.

On 29th June, accompanied by her mum Annmarie and dad Aiden, Alex arrived in Donegal to a great welcome. There to greet them were Danny Devlin, Chair of the IPA Hiking Club, joined by IPA Camera Club member, John Cahalin and Gardaí Barbara Doherty, Grainne McLoone and Gerry McCauley (who is also a member of Donegal Mountain Rescue) with his three young daughters. Kevin Dockery of Cavan Walkers (retired Garda member) and Donegal native Christine Gallagher of Cavan's Community Engagement Unit, Hugh Gallagher with his sister Ann and her husband Frank completed the welcome party, as they set off to conquer Errigal.

'This was quite a daunting challenge for a six-year-old child, but Alex climbed the whole way and back', said Annmarie. It is easy to tell that Aiden and Annmarie couldn't be prouder of their little daughter, and rightly so. There was a sense of carnival on their return to the car park after their three-and-a-half-hour hike, with Little Blue Heroes, Honorary Sergeant Jack and Honorary Gardaí Rory and Ray and their families waiting for them. Superintendent David Kelly of Milford phoned Alex with a congratulatory call. In the following days, Alex's sponsorship started adding up, amounting to a fantastic €5,750, which was duly given on to the Little Blue Heroes charity by Alex.

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Then, a short time afterwards, Alex met with Cavan's Honorary Gardaí, Jessica and Leon, the two local Little Blue Heroes who had inspired her. It was Alex's wish that some of the funds that she had raised would be used to help Jessica and Leon, and so with the kind assistance of Cavan Roads Policing Unit and the local Community Engagement Units, a visit by them all, with family, to Toy Master Cavan was organised. There, the owner Francis Clarke and his staff Maria, Deborah, Dean and Ian took the Little Blue Heroes under their wings and before long, the Little Blue Heroes had decided on getting electric ride-on jeeps while their siblings were also given a chance to choose a gift. The staff of Toy Master also made a generous donation of €200 to Little Blue Heroes, presenting the cheque to Annmarie Larkin Brady for the charity.

And all this happened thanks to six-year-old Alex Brady - what a Star. IPA Ireland congratulates Alex on her great achievement and Annmarie and Aiden on having such a wonderful little girl. We pray that Alex's health will continue to improve, and that she goes on to achieve many more amazing things in life.

Joe Lynch, Editor IPA Ireland