Amy Kelleher completes 65 Park Runs for 65 Roses raising funds for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland
Limerick preschool teacher Amy Kelleher to complete 65 park runs for 65 roses to raise awareness for Cystic Fibrosis
Amy Keller is a preschool teacher from Limerick and aunty to 20-month-old Hazel, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the heel prick test shortly after she was born.
Starting November 2021, Amy undertook to run 65 different park runs – for 65 roses – to raise awareness of CF and raise funds for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland.
To Hazel’s parents, Joanne and Dylan, the diagnosis was a complete surprise. Like many others, neither knew that cystic fibrosis was in either family and the news came as a shock.
“Hazel had been admitted to Crumlin Children’s Hospital with a really nasty rash when she was only a few weeks old. She had been discharged and Joanne and Dylan were bringing Hazel home when they got the call that the heel prick test detected CF. It was an awful shock for everyone,” remembers Amy.
Hazel began a strict regime of physio and medication to keep her well and at eight weeks old, she was the youngest female with CF in Ireland to access Kalydeco. Now, as she grows, her treatment burden has reduced and when she is six, she will be eligible for Kaftrio.
Despite this positivity, Amy explains how the family are aware that they can never take Hazel’s health for granted. Amy describes how the information available from CFI in the early days of the discovery and since, has helped them learn about CF, what Hazel might face in the future and what supports are in place to help her.
“I knew a bit about CF from working in the preschool. But I took to Dr Google and the first website that came up was the CFI website. It was such a great way of learning about CF. You know yourself, at the beginning, you are trying to learn and get as much info as possible and learn as much as you can about something, but you need reliable information” explains Amy.
As Amy learnt about CF in that first year, she was impressed by the work of CFI from providing grants and advocacy to funding consultant positions and hospital projects. In particular Amy was impressed by how strong and tight-knit the CF community is. When the dust had settled after Hazel’s diagnosis, she decided to do something to support her sister and her family by supporting CFI.
“We all love Hazel and care for her, and we can all support Joanne and Dylan as much as they need. But they live with the constant fear and worry of Hazel getting sick and I can’t take away that fear.
“So I wanted to help but I also wanted to do something different. I enjoy running and I love the odd road trip so I decided on the park runs. By doing this, I feel like I’m doing a bit more to help CFI support families and PWCF. And Hazel will benefit from that and all the work they do in the future,” Amy says.
Amy is aiming to run 65 different park runs for 65 Roses and while there is no upper limit, her fundraising target is €8000. She began her challenge in November 2021 in the University of Limerick and has now completed 64 park runs stretching the length and breadth of the country: from Antrim down to the Kerry peninsula, Achill across to Dublin, taking the ferry to Bere Island and even completing a parkrun in Sweden.
As a free, community and volunteer-based event, Amy wasn’t sure if she could take part in park runs for a charity. However, she has found a way to raise awareness of both CF and of her fundraiser without the need to directly ask for donations.
“I don’t shake buckets or anything but at the beginning of each run, I introduce myself and let the run director know what I am doing and who I am doing it for. More often than not, they give me a shout out so the other participants know about the challenge. Some run directors do a run report and include my fundraiser in it, and sometimes people just ask me, and I’m more than happy to tell them,” Amy continues.
“Like CFI, at the heart of the park runs is community. Each location has its core group running, but everyone is welcome and there is always a tail walker to make sure no one is last. So the ethos fits with CFI’s too. No one is left behind.”
Amy tries to visit a new location every weekend but life is life and it is not always possible. Finally, after 1 year and 9 months of this challenge, she is now near the end with only 1 parkrun left to complete which will take place at St. Anne’s parkrun in Dublin on the 12th of August 2023. There will be some representatives from CFI to great her at the finish and has sent out an invitation to anyone who has followed along and would like to join the 65th parkrun to help complete the task.
“We learnt a lot in the beginning, and we are learning every day since. But knowledge is power and the outlook is so different now from twenty years ago. Although there is still a lot of work to be done, who knows what the CF story will be a few years from now. Hazel will have as bright a future as anyone – we’ll make sure of it!”