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Dublin: 9°C Wednesday 19 January 2022

Irishman and his dog trek across Balkans to raise funds for sick children

Mark Keating and Pajo spent three months walking through six countries together.

Source: Whitewater Foundation via Facebook

BUSINESSMAN MARK KEATING and his dog Pajo have spent the last three months walking 2,000km through the Balkans to raise money for children with cancer.

The inspiration for the man’s trip came from two men related to Keating – his great-grandfather who was with the London Irish Regiment and fought on the Salonika front, and his wife’s grandfather Dobrosav Petrovic, who was one of hundreds of thousands of people who set off to escape capture by Germany, Austrian and Bulgarian armies in the first World War.

They made a treacherous journey over the high mountains of Montenegro and Albania to reach the island of Corfu where they took refuge.

Source: Whitewater Foundation via Facebook

Keating originally wanted to make the journey on horseback, but quickly realised this wasn’t practical and his dog Pajo was only to happy to accompany him instead.

“He’s fantastic. To be honest, I wouldn’t have done this without him. He’s one of my closest friends now,” he told TheJournal.ie.

Together Keating and Pajo took more than two million steps in 103 days across six countries.

At first I was scared shitless, but after probably two weeks I started to enjoy it and relax, to find things in my bag I couldn’t before because I was so hot and tired. We had a great time and we adapted well.

Source: Whitewater Foundation via Facebook

He said one of the most special moments for him was visiting a monument to the 10th Irish division in Macedonia.

“It was quite an emotional moment spending the night there where the Irish, including my great grandfather, would have fought,” he said. “It was very special, me and Pajo, two Irish boys and no one else was there.”

Keating said he feels the battles these men fought and the obstacles they overcame are similar to the fight children with cancer have.

“They just have to turn into warriors, all of a sudden overnight,” Keating said.

In total, he is hoping to raise more than €20,000 to pay for two new beds in St John’s Ward at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin and equipment for a children’s cancer ward in Belgrade. More details can be found here.

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