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Dublin: 13°C Thursday 19 May 2022

Family to walk 130 miles in memory of Sligo volunteer

Tom Ward tragically passed away a month before his planned charity walk.

Tom Ward
Tom Ward

THE FAMILY OF Tom Ward, a prolific fundraiser from Sligo, will honour their “charity hero” next weekend in the most appropriate way they can think of – by finishing his final great walk from Spancill Hill to his hometown of Keash.

“The walk must go on,” said the Ward family days after Tom collapsed and died from a sudden heart attack near his home on 17 May. For the months prior to his sudden passing, the 51-year-old had been in training for what was to be his final charity walk of 130 miles over two days.

He had already planned every detail of the event – even booking the band which would play at The Fox’s Den when he returned to Keash on Bonfire Night on 23 June. Sponsorships cards had been distributed and posters had been placed around Roscommon, Leitrim and Sligo. “All that was left to do was the walk,” the Ward family realised, “but this wasn’t to be Tom’s case”.

“In the days following Tom’s passing, his family made the heart-aching decision to continue this walk in his honour and raise the funds that he so wished to,” his nephew Patrick Ward told TheJournal.ie.

His brothers, nephews and three daughters Louise (22), Rebecca (21) and Rachel (16) will set off from Spancill Hill in county Clare  under the close supervision of Tom’s nephew Aiden in the early hours of Friday, 22 June. Their first stop will be in Knock, county Mayo where they will stay overnight before continuing the walk home on 23 June.

Each close family member will take 10 mile stints in a relay-version of the walk.

The family will meet up with more of Tom’s friends and neighbours in the villages of Gurteen and Culfadda before finishing the final leg together.

Described by Patrick as a “real character”, Tom had undertaken a number of charity fundraising events over the years, including a cross-country cycle from Dundalk to Keash for the National Council of the Blind and the Twin Fest Ireland for the Meningitis Trust Ireland in memory of his grand-niece Katie Garvey.

Just last year, he walked 90 miles from Maam’s Cross in Galway to Keash in aid of Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children Crumlin. Tom chose the charity after his grand-nephew Keelan had to undergo major surgery there in January 2011. “Every little helps was his motto,” explains Patrick.

Next week’s charity walk is in aid of the same charity, as was an auction that was held at Tom’s home earlier this month. His three daughters decided to sell his belongings and animals – nine miniature ponies and foals, five Jack Russells, goats and hens – for charity and raised more than €4,500.

Thanking everyone who has supported their efforts so far, the Ward family said in a statement, “It is not the closing one wishes for but the closing one must accept and it is with great honour that the family and friends of Tom take on this 130 mile walk.”

See Tom’s charity Facebook page here>

Donate to the 130-mile memorial charity walk here>

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