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Dublin: 15 °C Tuesday 29 July, 2014

PJ Gallagher: ‘You live more in five minutes on a bike than most people do in a lifetime’

Telling jokes to buy bikes and riding bikes to save lives – Comedian PJ Gallagher on finding a passion for volunteering.

PJ Gallagher

PEOPLE OFTEN ASSUME that because I’m a comedian, comedy is my passion. I love stand up comedy but really I’m doing it because I’m not that good at anything else. I found something I can do, and I’m running with it.

My passion is anything with two wheels – BMX bikes, road bikes, motorbikes – if you were to take the front wheels off a shopping trolley, I’d probably be happy out. I tell jokes to buy bikes.

Bikes have changed my life. They have made me a better person, and changed my outlook for the better.

Lose yourself

Bikes have given me more than I could ever give back. I got in to motorbikes just after my dad died. I remember getting on the bike soon after he died and for the first time in weeks, my head was completely clear. No matter who you are, when you get on a bike you can lose yourself and all your worries and stresses.

I suppose it’s like what the Buddhists do, but a lot faster. As Burt Munro said, you live more in five minutes on a bike than most people do in a lifetime.

When I heard about Blood Bikes East I knew straight away that I wanted to get involved.

It’s an amazing service and a fantastic idea. Experienced volunteer bikers using their time, skills and enthusiasm to help hospitals in Ireland by transporting blood and urgent medical supplies. The organisation also delivers breastmilk to premature or seriously ill children.

Before the organisation started, every time an item needed to go from one hospital to another, outside of normal operating hours, the hospital had to pay for a taxi, courier or ask an ambulance service to take it. Blood Bikes East now provides this service free of charge.

Chance to make a difference

The chance to help make a difference by riding my bike is a dream come true.

My wife used to always give out to me because she gives blood and I don’t. Any time I tried to give blood I was always refused because I had either just gotten a tattoo or recently visited a malarial area. I thought, if I can’t give blood, I could at least help out by transporting it instead (of course you can donate blood four months after you get a tattoo and 12 months after you visit a malarial area).

Since Blood Bikes East launched in 2013, the reaction from the biking community has been amazing. There are now over 100 volunteers signed up to the service.

I volunteer 2-3 times a month, each shift starting at 7pm and finishing up at 7am. When I’m on call I have the phone beside me all night, waiting for a call and when it comes – you head straight out on the bike. I love it. It not only gives me a chance to do something I love, it’s an opportunity to help out – to make a difference.

I get so much out of volunteering. I’d recommend it to anyone. It gets you up off your arse and helps you to realise that you can make a difference in other people’s lives.

Telling jokes

I’m often asked to do charity comedy gigs and I try and do as many as I can – if telling jokes for a few hours can help a charity, it’s a no brainer. Likewise – if getting on my bike for a few hours can save someone’s life, how can I not find the time?

Volunteering also brings people together. Last year myself and some friends set up a social cycling club in Clontarf in Dublin.

The idea was to bring cycling enthusiasts from the area together and organise regular social spins. We meet up on a Thursday evening or Sunday afternoon and head out for a 130k spin around Howth and North County Dublin. We stop off for coffee and a chat. The coffee shops love us. Forty lads paying for cappuccinos separately out of plastic bags.

I’ve met so many likeminded people through volunteering – I’ve made loads of friends. Sometimes all it takes is someone with an idea and the wherewithal to start something – people like Pat in Blood Bikes East, who started the organisation last April.

Blood Bikes East

I think most people want to do something – but aren’t sure where to go or what they’re looking for. I’m so grateful to Pat and all the guys at Blood Bikes East for allowing me to be involved.

I’d encourage anyone to consider giving volunteering a try. There’s nothing like doing something your passionate about, and helping others as a result.

There are so many volunteering roles, organisations and services out there looking for volunteers – there’s something there for everyone. If a motorbike-loving stand-up comedian can find his ideal volunteering role, anyone can!

May 12th – 18th is National Volunteering Week. PJ Gallagher’s article is part of a series of guest articles on volunteering that Volunteer Ireland are publishing this week on their website www.volunteer.ie. To see what volunteering roles are available in your area, browse over 3,000 volunteering opportunities at www.volunteer.ie

Read: Tracing The Blood Line: Here’s what happens to your blood after you donate>

Read: Tracing The Blood Line: Here’s what to expect when you give blood>

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