Ballymanus GAA undertake 'Step By Step' Challenge for #talktotom

By John Harrington

On May 1, Ballymanus GAA club in Wicklow will undertake a 24-hour 'Step by Step' challenge to raise funds for #talktotom, a community-based suicide prevention, mental health awareness and bereavement support charity based in Gorey and Arklow.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an adverse impact on the mental health of so many people, and this is perhaps why the Ballymanus ‘Step by Step’ challenge has captured the imagination of so many other clubs in Wicklow.

Orla Tyrrell is the driving force behind the fundraiser and invited other clubs in the area to also take part, but she’s been taken aback by the hugely positive response.

"Once we decided we were going to do it ourselves I reached out to a few other local clubs who also signed up for it," she says. "Then we put together a video promoting it and it just caught fire and now we’ve 17 clubs taking part.

“My phone was ringing off the hook last week with clubs getting in touch. It has been mainly GAA clubs but we also have soccer clubs, a triathlon club, a racquet ball club.

“It's been great because we want to raise awareness that we do now have a local charity in Wicklow who can help people through these tough times. To let them know that the services are there.”

Saoirse and Orla Tyrrell with Ballymanus and Wicklow footballer Mark Kenny.
Saoirse and Orla Tyrrell with Ballymanus and Wicklow footballer Mark Kenny.

Last year Ballymanus raised €8,000 for Pieta House and have set themselves the target of hitting the €10,000 mark for #talktotom.

“This year we felt it would be good to work with a local charity so we have teamed up with #talktotom, a suicide prevention and mental health charity in Gorey who have opened a centre this year in Arklow,” says Tyrrell.

“They're a volunteer charity with a fantastic story who don't get any money off the Government so we felt they were a really worthy charity that we know will be doing good work in our own local area.

“The situation with Covid and everything that has gone with it, working and studying from home, the social isolation, it's been really tough on a lot of people.

“I know unfortunately that #talktotom have never been busier because unfortunately people in general are just really, really suffering at the moment because of this pandemic.”

Tyrrell is passionate about helping charities like #talktotom and Pieta House because she experienced first-hand the devastating impact of suicide when her brother Colin took his own life in 1997.

“Colin was only 19 and it was very sudden,” she says. “He went to a disco on a Saturday night and came home and took his life in our hayshed.

“There was no warning at all. This was 20 years ago and it was extremely tough to deal with, the services that are available now weren't available back then.

“I just really hope that by doing this fundraiser we might save someone's life and save a family the heartache that we experienced.

"The name of the challenge is 'Step by Step', and it's trying to get the message out not to be afraid to take the step to realise that you are not ok, to take the step to reach out for help and to get the proper diagnosis and to take the step to realise that you are loved, wanted and needed more than you will ever know.”

The ‘Step by Step’ challenge will involve members of every participating club exercising (socially distant) for hourly slots for a total of 24 hours.

At a time when the clubs themselves are still closed due to the pandemic, it’s already proving to be a great way to build team-spirt in the absence of organised sport.

“Our Pieta House fundraiser actually brought a bit of a buzz back into the club and this one is doing the same,” says Tyrrell.

“Everyone encourages one another to do their walk and take a picture and tag the club on it.

“There should be a great buzz on May 1 when all of the clubs are taking on the challenge together.”

You can donate to the Ballymanus GAA ‘Step by Step’ challenge in aid of #talktotom HERE.