In memory of Nanny Mary
While Christmas 2020 was a difficult one for everyone, it was especially difficult for the Killeen family from Kiltullagh, Co. Galway. Their beloved Nanny Mary was taken to hospital in London, where she lived, and soon after she passed away leaving her husband Seán bereft and lonely. As it was during the COVID-19 crisis, Seán’s son John and his family in Ireland could not travel to be with him as he grieved for his beloved partner of 63 years. His then 16-year-old grandson, Philip, was especially upset to see his grandad so distressed and he was longing to do something for him that might bring a bit of light and cheer into his life again.
Over the next few weeks Philip worked on various ideas about how to reach out to Seán across the miles until finally settling on a virtual cycle to see his grandad. Philip worked out that it was 775km from Kiltullagh to South London so he created a chart that marked off the kilometres in 10km sections – 77 and a half of them. Calling grandad Seán he told him “I’m coming to see you grandad on my bike! It might take a while but I will get there.’ Philip knew that this gesture would mean a huge amount to Seán but he decided to take it a step further and make it mean a huge amount to others too. So he set up a GoFundMe page called ‘Cycling for My Nanny’ and added ‘and Cancer Awareness’ and chose Cancer Care West to be the beneficiary of the funds raised. His target was €1 for each kilometre – so €775 in all.
Starting on Sunday the 10th January, Philip hit the roads around Kiltullagh, crossing off the kilometres covered each day on his chart. Day after day, in rain, wind and occasionally some Winter sun, Philip got further and further from home and closer to his grandad. When the weather turned too bad he turned to Raheen Woods Gym in Athenry and asked for the loan of a stationary bicycle which they gladly donated. Philip continued to grind out the miles.
While Philip was doing all the hard labour his sister, Layla, decided to throw her energy into helping him but more wisely maybe did it from the comfort of home and on her laptop. Layla composed an email, detailing Philip’s efforts and sent it around to various news outlets and online forums. Soon Philip’s efforts got some attention and the coverage flowed in. Two of the highlights were when Eleanor Mannion of RTÉ interviewed Philip, Layla and Séan over Zoom and posted a lovely video of them online with an article detailing Philip’s challenge and when Jennifer Zamparelli on 2fm also interviewed Philip on her morning show.
For most of January and all of February and March Philip stuck to his commitment, cycling every day and making regular calls to Seán updating him on his progress. As all of this was done within the 5km COVID-19 restrictions limit it has to have taken a special dedication to grind through the daily cycles. Finally at the beginning of April the end was in sight as on Monday April 5th Philip virtually reached Barriedale, London – the home of his grandad.
At Cancer Care West we think Philip is an exceptional young man with a big heart. His challenge highlights how much can be achieved within a 5km limit, with very little support and with just your family in Kiltullagh and London to cheer you on every day. Philip also credits the wonderful support he received online through his Instagram diary and Facebook page. ‘Such kind and supportive messages really helped me to keep going.’ We are delighted that Philip did keep going and we are very grateful for the funds he raised as the initial €750 target was blown out of the water as the funds received topped €5,000!
Our thanks to Philip, Layla, Seán and the Killeen family. We know that Nanny Mary is looking on with such pride and there is no doubt that her spirit lives on in the amazing bond she and Seán have with their grandchildren.