Friends of Irish graduate in coma mount huge fundraiser for medical bills

A fundraising album has just this week launched in Ireland by the friends and supporters of a comatose young Irish man, Pádraig Schaler, who was knocked off his bicycle while working in Cape Cod, Massachusetts in June 2013. The album, entitled ‘Dreamboat’ is just the latest in a long line of fundraising efforts to raise the funds to pay for Pádraig’s medical bills.

The album is made up of ten songs, with a mixture of songs in English and in Irish, written and recorded over the past four months. Over 50 people came together to make the album possible and they are hoping that the record will go some way to covering the cost of Pádraig’s medical bills. When asked how the whole idea behind the album started, one of Pádraig’s best friends and one of the main organizers behind the fundraisers, Andrew King said:

“Basically, the whole project started with a song written for Pádraig by Maitiu O’Casaide of the band, The Bonnymen. He wrote it for a concert in aid of Pádraig in Colaiste Eoin in February. He came to me in June suggesting that we record the song and get all of Pádraig's friends to participate... which we did. But the project just grew and grew until we had a whole album for him. The whole process, between recording, fundraising, web-design, and publicity has basically taken about four months! But we eventually got there and we are really happy with the response so far, and delighted to have gotten quite a bit of publicity in the lead-up to the launch. Now, the real task of selling the CDs and keeping the publicity going begins.”

Friends and supporters have been spreading the launch of the album through social media; they have been tweeting at well-known Irish personalities using the hashtag #AmhrándoPhádraig to drum up support. The album was officially launched on Wednesday night in The Grand Social, Dublin. Speaking about the launch, close friend Claire McCabe said:

“There were a few acts performing that played on the album - poetry read, songs sang, music played. Pádraig's mum spoke a few words as Gaeilge, thanking people… It was overwhelming to see the room packed with Pádraig's friends from different areas of his life and then to think, so many of his friends still couldn't be there because they are living abroad.”

In the summer of 2013, Pádraig had recently graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a BA in History and German, and he was spending his first post-college summer working in the US on the J1 visa. Thousands of Irish college students have travelled and worked in America on the J1 visa down through the years and for most it is remembered as a carefree, adventure-filled summer. Tragically, Pádraig was knocked from his bike while cycling to work and has been in a coma ever since then. Following the accident, Pádraig was initially cared for in the United States before being moved to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin and eventually on to Schön Klinik Hamburg in Germany, where he receives round-the-clock world class care. Pádraig’s family have provided updates on his condition through a blog, Hospi-Tales, written by his father. This allows Pádraig’s friends both in Ireland and now living abroad to be kept continuously up to date on his condition. Although there is a long road to recovery, friends and family have recently had reason to cheer when Pádraig said ‘yes’ in German and moved his leg.

Padráig, now 24, was a peer of mine during my time in university; we were classmates and well acquainted. The level of support and fundraising that those close to Pádraig have undertaken since the accident has been nothing short of astounding. But for anyone who knows Pádraig, it makes sense that his friends would rally around him during his time of need. He was a popular man around Trinity campus and was active in many different areas of college life, especially the Irish language society. The outpouring of support from his friends is a real testament to the impact he has made on them.

The fundraising efforts are absolutely vital to covering the considerable medical bills for Pádraig’s care. Despite having health insurance, as all J1 students must, Pádraig’s insurance company refused to cover his bills because he was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. Massachusetts state law does not require cyclists to wear a helmet while riding and his insurance policy only required protective headgear while playing extreme sports, not every day cycling. Earlier this year, Pádraig’s friends put together a fundraiser entitled ‘Snámh Pádraig’ which saw 50 participants swimming the freezing waters of 17 different Irish counties in less than two days. The response to the fundraiser was overwhelming, with close to $50,000 raised.

If you would like to buy the album, you can purchase it here or if you would like to donate to ‘Caring for Pádraig’ you can do so here.