PUCKER UP! The 10th annual Lollipop Day got underway today on Friday with a lunchtime sing song outside Arnotts in Dublin. Lollipop Day is the Esophageal Cancer Fund's annual fundraiser. Singing legen

Free Hugs On Offer

VALENTINE’S Day may have passed, but love is still very much in the air for a Northside man who is going door-to-door giving out free hugs as part of an ambitious campaign.

Brian Hutchings, from Baldoyle, and his friends are determined to bring a smile and a little love into the lives of all those who are feeling the effects of the recession as part of their Love Brigade campaign.

The 25-year-old, who has been “canvassing for love,” believes there’s no better way to remind people of life’s little pleasures than sharing a hug and a smile.

Hutchings’s quest has seen him hand out almost 150 hugs to householders in his area over the last two weeks alone.

“I started on Valentine’s Day and my basic message is for people to stop worrying or thinking about the future or the past, and live in the now,” he said.

“I’m not a politician. I’m not selling anything or asking for money and I don’t have any other agenda apart from sharing the love.

“I realize everyone is worried about different things at the moment -- their jobs, money, the future -- which is why I want to offer them something as simple as a hug to bring a smile to their faces and make them realize the important things in life.”

Hutchings said the response to his campaign has been overwhelming and that most people he meets at their doors are quite happy to take him up on his offer of a free hug.

“Most people laugh and avail of the free hug,” he stated.

“There was one girl all right who was a little wary and said it was a bit weird to which I replied, ‘If you consider human nature a bit weird then that’s fair enough.’

“It’s a sad day when someone is a bit skeptical of someone offering something as simple as a hug.”

Hutchings, who is currently unemployed, is focusing his efforts on stepping up his Love Brigade drive with the help of more volunteers.

Three of his friends joined him as he went from house-to-house in the Seagrange area of Baldoyle last Thursday.

“A few of my friends have come out door-to-door with me and I’m hoping to raise money to be able to print off a few more Love Brigade jumpers for them to wear,” he added.

“I’ve been collecting stones and shells from the beach which I hope to polish and sell as candleholders to generate the money to get more jumpers printed.”
Dublin People

Fundraiser Sent Home

A CARLANSTOWN family expressed their hurt and upset this week when their son was sent home from school because he had dyed his hair for a charity fundraiser.

Leaving Cert student Jack Lawes was devastated when he was sent home from Kells Community School last Tuesday because of his bright pink hair, which was dyed as part of the Today FM Shave or Dye charity campaign to raise funds for the Irish Cancer Society.

The charity is particularly close to Jack's heart, as his mother, Cicely, has recovered from cancer.

"I am not the type of person who would do this just for the craic. I would be afraid of other students making smart comments about it, but I felt strongly about it and wanted to this for charity," he said.

What has really upset his family is that he was sponsored for the charity campaign by the school's deputy principal and two of his teachers. To date, Jack has raised over 350 for the Irish Cancer Society.

His father, Gerard, is angry at the school's decision and said his wife had been particularly upset by the incident.

"It is his Leaving Certificate year and he cannot afford to miss time off school, particularly after all the time they missed because of the weather," he said.

"Jack has been a pupil of the school for six years and has never been in trouble before. My wife has had cancer and my father died of it. This was a major thing Jack wanted to do and some of the teachers actually sponsored him," he said.

"They obviously knew he was going to dye his hair and why he was doing it. We are very hurt by this. There was no negotiating with them.”

Jack's hair was dyed on Monday at the House of Color salon in Dublin. The salon dyed the hair, a procedure which would normally cost 120, for free because it was for charity.

He said he was in the school just five minutes when deputy principal Kay O'Brien brought him into the office, his parents were contacted and he was sent home.

He said the school wants him to dye his hair back to blonde and has told him he would still be in trouble if he shaved it off.

"Dying it again would be expensive and would be too severe -- the hair would break off," he said.

"This will fade in two weeks and I wanted to just let it fade. They knew I was going to do this. Some of them sponsored me, so I thought it would be alright, especially as this is my Leaving Cert year," he said.

O'Brien said the school would not comment on any individual student.
Meath Chronicle

Pagan Ritual?

A BIZZARE phenomenon in Oak Park Forest Park this week has left many baffled and utterly intrigued.
Vines of ivy, their leaves carefully removed, then skilful pleated and shaped into a ring, have been placed hanging on trees throughout the forest.

Paganism? Black Magic?  Some ancient ritual?  Or someone with too much time on their hands. Who knows?

“Different people have told me they’ve seen this before in England and it could involve the art of black magic, but we don’t know,” said Oak Park Forest Park ranger Jimmy Doyle.

“We found 25 of them last week and another 13 this morning (Monday),” he added. “The 13 were hanging on one branch and then others were put up high on the tree deep into the forest.”

The authorities aren’t too concerned about this mysterious practice, but curiosity has got the better of everyone at the park.

“We’d just love to know what it means. It takes a bit of effort to do them and it would be great to know why,” he said.
Carlow Nationalist

Smoking Stats

NEW research from Aviva Health Insurance reveals that over 20% of Kildare residents who completed their online health check are smokers.

The figures also show that a higher proportion of females smoke and that the average smokers consumes an average of 12 cigarettes a day. This accumulates to over 300 a month, costing approximately 144 and 1,728 every year.

Overall, Monaghan was reported to have the lowest number of smokers, for the second year running, with only 16% of people buying into the habit. Longford has the highest number of smokers in the country with 30% of people admitting to smoking.

Besides being a costly habit, statistics have shown that smokers lose an average of 10 to 15 years from their life expectancy. Even second-hand smoke exposes non-smokers to at least 50 cancer causing agents.
Kildare Nationalist

Pony Badly Beaten

A PONY was beaten to within an inch of its life in Moyross by a bunch of thugs high on drink and drugs, who even drove a car at the defenseless animal say Limerick Animal Welfare.

The 10-month-old pony had to be put down days later due to its injuries. Jodie Hayward, from the charity, said they received a phone call late on Friday night from “a very scared young lady.”

“She explained that people were trying to load the pony onto a horse box and that he fell down. He was then beaten and kicked to try to get him up. They then beat and dragged him out of sight, and what happened then cannot even be put into words,” said Hayward.

When they arrived on the scene, across from the health center in Moyross, early the following morning they were told “they did a job on him.”

They heard he was hit by a car, beaten with planks of wood and kicked.

“He took an awful battering. His eye was swollen and he had a nasty and very old injury to one of his back legs. He was hot all over despite it being such a cold morning -- he was literally swelling up from all the bruising. He had taken one of the severest beatings any animal could take and survive,” said Hayward, who called the pony Pudsy after the Children in Need bear.

With the assistance of Gardai (police), a vet and many local people, they managed to load Pudsy in to a horse box.

“The local people were absolutely horrified by what had happened,” said Hayward.

Pudsy got the best veterinary care available in the sanctuary but was unable to get back to his feet. His condition worsened and despite the best efforts of staff he had to be put to sleep.

“At least he died knowing we’re not all bad,” said the Kilfinane sanctuary manager.

She says it is unlikely that there will be any prosecutions as the horse isn’t micro chipped.

“There’s no way of tracing the owner. They won’t come forward,” said Hayward.
Limerick Leader