Residents of St. Anthony's nursing home show their support for Oola GAA's 'Dash for Darragh' fundraiser.
Residents of St. Anthony's nursing home show their support for Oola GAA's 'Dash for Darragh' fundraiser. 

Oola GAA build impressively on Irish Life Healthy Club Steps Challenge


By John Harrington

The GAA Healthy Club Steps Challenge in partnership with Irish Life that took place last January proved such a hit in Oola, County Limerick, that they’re still clocking up the kilometres at a tremendous pace three months later.

Oola GAA club member, Tom Bourke, was recognised as a Healthy Club Walking Hero for the fantastic job he did organising the Steps Challenge in the club, and since then he and the Oola Healthy Clubs Committee has built impressively on that achievement.

“It was great success, so much so that it carried on to an even bigger success,” he told GAA.ie. “We did the Irish Life challenge back in January and a good few people joined up for that.

“Then a local shop, O'Donovan's Londis shop, they had a steps challenge in February for Laura Lynn so a lot of people carried on and did that.

“Then March came and we were talking to people and we just felt it would be good if we could keep people out walking because there had been such a positive reaction to it.

“So we started an initiative we called 'March for a Million'. We set up teams of five people and the aim was to get a million steps done by the end of March. I think around 150 people took part, a huge number.

“And now we're running another challenge for April, an individual one with three levels, Gold, Silver, and Bronze, which equate to a different amount of steps. Again, there are over 100 people doing it.”

Oola GAA Healthy Clubs Committe members Tom Bourke (left) and Treasa Ryan (right) present a cheque of the money raised for their 'Dash to Croke Park and Back' fundraiser in 2020 to Mary Purcell from GROW Mental Health Recovery.
Oola GAA Healthy Clubs Committe members Tom Bourke (left) and Treasa Ryan (right) present a cheque of the money raised for their 'Dash to Croke Park and Back' fundraiser in 2020 to Mary Purcell from GROW Mental Health Recovery.

What Oola GAA have found at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has cut off many of our social outlets is that bringing people together to share a challenge has fostered a real feeling of community.

“What's been great is that some of the people doing it set up a group where they send in pictures of where they are in the locality out on their walks and stuff like that,” he says.

“During lockdown it has been difficult to see people regularly so this has been a nice way for them all to keep in touch with one another. And it's been great to see people out and about doing their walking and being involved in something together.

“What we've seen from these walking challenges is that it's involved people who have never been involved with the club previously who are now showing an interest in the club and following events on social media.

“Hopefully when matches come back they'll now show an interest in them as well.

“We've also had a lot of participants from our siser club Doon GAA take part in the walking challenges so they've been very positive events for the wider community.”

Oola GAA’s Healthy Club Committee has been a very active one since their formation, and helped some very worthy charities along the way.

Their latest fund-raising drive takes place this weekend and will help a local child, Darragh Ryan, who has been diagnosed with a rare disease, Mitochondrial Complex 1 Deficiency Disease.

“We're calling it a 'Dash for Darragh'", says Bourke. "It's for a local child who has fallen ill and his family need funds to renovate his home.

“So, over the May Bank Holiday we're running an event. It's €20 to enter and people can run 5k, walk 10k, or cycle 20k and all the profits will be going to the 'Future for Darragh' fundraiser.”

You can donate to the ‘Future for Darragh’ fundraiser HERE.