An Co Armagh man is trekking 1,500 miles across Europe to Ireland to raise awareness and funds for dementia research.
Eamonn Donnelly and his friend Sepp Tieber, from Austria, have just reached the half-way point — near the town of Antheny in Northern France — on their long journey.
They will next make their way to Calais to catch the ferry to Dover, England. They will then trek across England and Wales, before taking another ferry from Fishguard to Rosslare in County Wexford, for the final leg northwards across Ireland to Eamonn’s native home in Keady in County Armagh. They plan to reach Keady on September 7th or 8th.
The expedition, entitled ‘The Long Walk Home,’ is inspired by Eamonn’s mother Margaret, who died in April 2014 at the age of 71.
“The idea for ‘The Long Walk Home’, from my adopted home near Graz in Austria to my native home in Keady, Co. Armagh, featured in many a late-night pub talk, but that's where it started and ended. When my mother Margaret passed away a few years ago, after suffering from a rare and extremely aggressive form of dementia, the idea took on a whole new meaning and purpose.
“Frustrated and feeling helpless that nothing could be done to alleviate the symptoms let alone cure this cruel disease, it became apparent to me and my family that much more needed to be done to understand and tackle it. 'The Long Walk Home' is a very small step along the way to doing just that, hoping to raise awareness and much needed funds for dementia research, while also honoring the life of an amazing wife, mother, grandmother and friend.”
With the journey, Donnelly aims to increase awareness about dementia while also raising funds for research.
The project has enlisted the support of The Alzheimer’s Society in NI and UK as well as The Alzheimer Society of Ireland, who will both benefit from funds raised by the trek.
Eamonn, 50, an English teacher, currently lives in Austria with his wife and three children. He and Sepp, with who he formed the Irish band Boxty, came up with the idea of the journey last year.
Now six weeks into the trek, the journey has been marked by many ups and downs.
“The journey so far has been marked by a mix of emotions. It’s been tough and yet it’s been amazing. We’ve experienced the extremes of walking in 35-40-degree heat to facing the cold of the lower Alps. We've seen it all...breath-taking scenery at every turn matched with the beautiful (if not a little dangerous), forces of nature, especially throughout 3 days of heavy thunderstorms in the Alps,” said Eamonn.
“We have also been greatly encouraged by the kindness of human nature, both in person and through the online donations and support we have received for the trek. The generosity and curiosity from total strangers about our adventure has been truly inspiring and has on more than one occasion been the extra motivation to wake up and do another 35-40km the next day.
“There has been plenty of time to think and remember why we are doing this crazy challenge in the first place. As things stand, and a bit like our end destination, a cure for dementia seems to be a distant dream. We strongly believe that we need to be exploring paths to eventually reach it and I hope that in some very small way, ‘The Long Walk Home’ might help answer some of the most fundamental questions surrounding the disease.”
You can read more about the journey and make a donation on their website, here.
You can also follow them on Twitter on @DementiaWalk or with the hashtag #LongWalkHome