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Limerick lady Cathy O Gorman aims to walk 80km in one day to fundraise for Debra Ireland

Walking and running enthusiast Cathy O Gorman from Newcastle West, pictured at last year’s Regeneron Great Limerick Run

Limerick lady Cathy O Gorman aims to walk 80km in one day to fundraise for Debra Ireland

By I Love Limerick Correspondent Mary Doyle

On June 21, life coach and business mentor Cathy O’Gorman from Newcastle West, Co. Limerick, plans to walk the distance of 80km to raise money for Debra Ireland; a charity very close to her heart. Debra Ireland are a family and patient-led organisation who support people living with the genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa (EB), also known as Butterfly Disease, and their services are suffering financially due to Covid-19. Cathy O


Business-woman Cathy O’Gorman has had an impressive career, from owning and running a restaurant and a bistro in Limerick, to holding various program and customer management positions with Dell and other E-learning companies, and she has now recently undergone a career change in becoming a Professional Development and Life Coach, and business mentor. But she also has a passion for charity work, and finding out more about Debra Ireland over the last year has inspired her to raise as much money and awareness as she can for those who suffer from EB.

Cathy’s interest in Debra Ireland’s work was ignited after she attended an information evening about the charity in 2019, and learned about the painful skin disease that is epidermolysis bullosa. She listened to Liz Collins tell the tear-jerking story of her daughter Claudia Elizabeth Scanlon, who is now sixteen years old and has suffered with EB since birth. As a young girl she faced challenges such as losing friendships as a result of her fingers fusing together and making it difficult for her to use social media sites. This is just one story of so many that portray the challenges of those who suffer from the disease, and also the lack of resources and services that are available to those who have EB in Ireland.

In March of this year, Cathy traveled to the Arctic for Debra Ireland’s Arctic Challenge in which the mission is to survive in a harsh, unknown environment like no other, where temperatures get as low as -20 degrees Celsius. 

cathy o gorman

The Debra Ireland group pictured on their trip to the Arctic this year, Cathy is fourth from the left. Picture: Events, Store, Explore

Speaking about the experience Cathy said, “Each day we started off by hearing stories of the challenges these kids face; Casey, who was embarrassed handing up homework to the teacher with blood on the pages, because the 9 year old’s fingers bled during the assignment, and Emma Fogarty who has to spend 5 hours every 2 days getting her bandages changed, that cover 85% of her body, and morphine no longer kills the pain she feels during the process.”

During their time in the Arctic, participants fundraise for Debra Ireland while spending a week with total strangers in a cabin that has no running water, electricity, or toilet, in extremely low temperatures. The idea of the challenge is to feel the pain of the intense cold on your skin, which isn’t even comparable to the burning pain that EB sufferers face daily. 

“It was an amazingly challenging thing to do because we were all totally outside of our comfort zone, but the reward and sense of achievement was fantastic because we helped such a hugely deserving charity,” Cathy added.

Now with more insight into Debra Ireland and the people that they help, Cathy has committed to partaking in her own fundraiser which she can complete during these uncertain times of Covid-19, with the organisation in need of funds now more than ever. On Sunday, June 21, Cathy plans to walk 80km, from Newcastle West to Limerick, and back, with the route depending on restrictions and permission. 80km was chosen in honour of Cathy’s mother Anne who will turn 80 this June 24.

Setting out at 4.30am, Cathy will walk 20 kilometres at a time between stopping for food and toilet breaks. “I think it will take between 17 and 18 hours in total and depending on my route, I will have friends drop in and out to walk some kilometres with me. The hardest point I think will be between 30 and 60 kilometres, where the head challenge will be tough. After that, I will be counting down the kilometres to home,” she said.

When asked about where the idea came from, Cathy said, “I’m never afraid of a challenge, and to push and test myself, and maybe I’m a little bit mad too, who knows! The longest distance I had ever covered was a half marathon run. However, I thought that, to ask people to dig for money during such a difficult time for some as we have now, I needed to commit to something drastic and invest personal time and energy.”

In training for her 80km walk, Cathy walks 6 days a week, with one long walk of 20-35km, and 5 shorter walks of about 10km and over, with about 100km a week covered. Keeping things simple but effective, Cath said, “I don’t follow any training plan set out by anybody, and don’t have any nutritionist advice but did get some great tips from Chris at Adrenaline Sports in Newcastle West where I buy my runners. I plan to peak at a 50k walk before the date, and the 5 days before the walk itself will be total rest.”

To donate to Debra Ireland, click here.

Follow Cathy’s fundraiser on her Facebook page; Cathy Corbett.

For more information on Debra Ireland, click here.

For more fundraisers, click here.

Richard is a presenter, producer, songwriter and actor. He was named the Limerick Person of the Year (2011) and won an online award at the Metro Éireann Media and Multicultural Awards (2011) for promoting multi-culturalism online. Richard says that the concept is very much a community driven project that aims to document life in Limerick. So, that in 20 years time people can look back and remember the events that were making the headlines.