Local Duo Raise Over €10k for IKA in 888km Physical Endurance Challenge!

08 Jul 2020

Battling through the heavy rain on Saturday, June 27th, two old school friends, Michael O'Driscoll (23) from Clontarf and Gavin Downes from Raheny (25), undertook a gruelling 24-hour 888 KM Physical Endurance Challenge to fundraise for the Irish Kidney Association and raise awareness for organ donation. They two men who play Gaelic sport together were motivated to undertake the gruelling challenge as a friend of theirs underwent a kidney transplant a few years ago. The duo were also inspired by retired transplant surgeon David Hickey who showed up to support them on the first day of their challenge. David Hickey played football for Dublin with Michael's uncle Gay O'Driscoll in the '70s winning three all Ireland's together. With donations still coming in the fundraiser has raised over €10,000 for the Irish Kidney Association.

The challenge involved each of the two men cycling 400km and running 44km over two days covering the three coastal locations of Clontarf, Sutton and Howth on Dublin's northside with 6 AM starts. Cycling over to meet them in Clontarf as they neared home was Transplant Team Ireland powerhouse John Moran (61) from Glasnevin who is celebrating 35 years since receiving his successful kidney transplant and who won three gold medals and two Silver for cycling and running events at the World Transplant Games last year. Also showing up over the two days to support the lads were family and friends.

Michael and Gavin have both played hurling and football competitively with St. Vincent’s GAA Club since early childhood. Having attended the same secondary school, Ardscoil Rís on Griffith Avenue, Gavin went on to graduate from St. Patrick’s College in Drumcondra in addition to completing a professional master degree in primary education through Hibernia College to become a Primary School Teacher at Holy Trinity SNS in Donaghmede. Michael, a qualified personal trainer and fitness coach, graduated from Dublin City University with a BA degree in Human Development before going on to complete a postgraduate degree in Psychology at Trinity College Dublin.

According to Michael, “a close friend of ours underwent a kidney transplant a few years ago and having spoken with David Hickey who explained the impact of kidney disease on the lives of individuals and families and how their health can be transformed as a result of a life-changing kidney transplant, we decided we wanted to focus our passion for sport and fitness into supporting the Irish Kidney Association, which is obviously an extremely worthy charity which promotes organ donation. We were fortunate to meet David Hickey through my uncle Gay O’Driscoll, who was a previous teammate of his on the great Dublin football team of the ’70s managed by the late Kevin Heffernan. David is obviously a highly respected former Gaelic Football player and medical professional. David pioneered medical transplant operations in Ireland therefore, it was incredibly insightful to get his perspective on the importance of raising funds and awareness for organ donation. It is fantastic to have his support for our event."

"It was a tough challenge. The heavy rainfall and strong winds made it far more difficult than we had expected. There were plenty of demons fought but we got through the many obstacles, especially the harsh weather, that were thrown at us as we focused on the cause and why we were doing it. We are very grateful to all who have kindly supported us with their generous donations and with donations still coming in we are delighted to have raised over €10,000 for the Irish Kidney Association. We hope that our Challenge will encourage others to open up conversations surrounding organ donation and the immeasurable gift it bestows to those in need. We also wish to convey a message which details the importance of engaging in physical exercise to maintain a healthy body and a healthy mind."

Gavin Downes, a 5th class teacher at Holy Trinity SNS in Donaghmede said after his challenge, "It was an extremely tough challenge we set ourselves but we enjoyed pushing through the physical and mental challenge over the two days. It was a great feeling to complete it and have friends and family at the end line. All for a great cause! I'd like to thank Principal David Henry and the school and Hibernia College for their support with the fundraiser and in helping to raise awareness."

Those wishing to make a donation to Michael and Gavin’s 888km Physical Endurance Challenge can do so through the GoFundMe link here. Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. You can also visit the website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or download a free ‘digital organ donor card’ APP to your phone.

(photos credit Conor McCabe)