My first memory of fundraising is filling our Trocaire box for my primary school, much like everybody else. The following year we were asked to do a readathon for The MS Society. The school taught us all about MS and I remember feeling so bad for anyone suffering with it. I decided I’d do my best for them. My dyslexia had yet to be diagnosed, but reading a book was still like asking me to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. I decided I’d read magazines instead. The school said no to this idea, and I agreed to read the books. I never read a single book, lied and said I did and raised loads of money for The MS Society!
When I was 10 they asked us to take home a SVP charity box. It was made out of heavy duty navy blue plastic with a slit in the top for coins and it reminded me of a chalice! The teacher told us about the work of the SVP and I was very impressed. Helping people I felt were less well off than I was very motivating. All I’d to do was fill the box, no more reading. Communication came naturally to me and I walked the length of my road knocking on doors that I’d never knocked on before. I was adamant I’d go back to school with the box full to the brim. Sure, I wasn’t great academically but I knew I was brilliant at this! By the time I’d finished I was a long way from home in the cold and dark, but I’d achieved my goal.
When I was 13 I did a sponsored cycle from Edenmore to Balbriggan with my pal Stephanie in aid of Beaumont Hospital. After what seemed like hours and with no training at all we finally arrived. We were wrecked and I remember saying ‘there is no way I’m cycling back!’. The medical unit had to bring us and our bikes home! I’m still mortified when I think about it now. However, we were the youngest on the trip, we raised plenty of money and had great craic.
I continued to do various fundraising events, truth was I enjoyed it and felt it worthwhile. When I was 21, I worked for Cara Computers. The managing director, Paddy McNamara, announced that Trocaire had asked him to get a representative from the company to travel to Brazil for a sponsored walk. Everyone laughed and said ‘no way!’. I said ‘I’ll do it Paddy’, everyone laughed again and said ‘yeah right’. However, these people didn’t know me! I was told I’d need to raise £3.5k to go, plus my own spending money. I’d also have to use my own annual leave. The gauntlet was laid down and I picked it up. I rang every supplier I dealt with and it was the quickest £3.5k I’d ever made. After just one week I had all I needed down to my walking boots, sponsored by the engineering department. I was overwhelmed by how kind, generous and supportive everyone was.
Next stop Brazil with 30 people I’d never met before. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It changed who I was and how I viewed the world. Being in the jungle, meeting tribes, swimming in Rio Negro, seeing animal and plant life I could never have imagined. The smells, the heat, the food – it was just out of this world. However, even more powerful was the night we met the street kids our fundraising had helped off the streets and into school. They ran across the hotel lobby like we were long lost family. Almost knocking us over with their hugs and kisses. I’d never before experienced anything like the love and gratitude they showed us. I was completely overwhelmed by this.
The high was short lived, the very next day Pope John Paul II was visiting Rio for the very first time. The night we met the street kids that were saved and going to school, the ones that were left on the streets (and there were hundreds of them) were brought up to the mountains and shot dead so the streets could be ‘kept clean’ for the Popes arrival. Every time I think of this I burst into floods of tears. It was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. Even the journalists who wrote about it were murdered. In that moment and the weeks following, I felt like my efforts were futile and questioned why was I even bothering to try and make a difference in anyone’s life. I felt utterly defeated and wanted to give up. I stopped fundraising for a long time after that. I still supported and contributed to charities that were important to me. I went to table quizzes etc. but I wasn’t proactive for many years. I feel differently now. ‘Whoever Saves a Life Saves the Entire World’. I keep that to the forefront of my mind otherwise I would go completely crazy and never help anyone ever again.
I got busy making a career for myself, I travelled more, fell in love, got married, had a baby and moved to Duleek aged 29 with a ten-month-old baby. Day two of living in Duleek I took a stroll down to the village to look for the Parent and Toddler Group. I knocked on the priest’s door, he says ‘there is none’. How was I supposed to meet other Mams, socialise, get to know other local people? I was annoyed about this for the entire day. Being a Dublin native I was used to having facilities on my doorstep. I’d not fully appreciated how lucky I was. In my naivety the reality of all of this was like being punched in the stomach. I felt very isolated and alone. I decided that night I could whinge and moan about it, or I could do something about it.
The following day I started researching how to set up a Parent and Toddler group. I wanted to have the best Parent and Toddler group in the country. There is a lot of red tape involved, I worked hard and fundraised till I ended up with enough money to buy all of the equipment I wanted and much more. In my mind, this was a facility mainly for the parents and secondly for the kids. I knew that there had to be other parents behind closed doors who felt isolated with their children same as I did.
Duleek is a commuter town and had grown exponentially in the previous 5 years during the housing boom, there were so many new people living there. The locals knew each other but we didn’t! It took 18 months to get it off the ground. The launch date was the 5th of September 2007. At that time I was 9 months pregnant with my second child, admittedly my timing wasn’t great. My due date was our wedding anniversary, the 23rd of August so I figured I’d be ok, the 23rd came and went and no baby arrived. The hospital said they would let me go two weeks over my due date but this was not going to suit the launch of the toddler group!
Thinking this child was never going to come, on August 27th in total panic mode I went into the Rotunda Hospital and explained my situation. They thought I was crazy, and tried to send me home. I told them NO! I’d made a commitment to my community and wanted to have this baby TODAY. So I could be back to myself before the launch date. I’d invited the whole town, the Parish Priest, the Public Health Nurse and the local media and I couldn’t let them all down. So, they broke their policy and induced my labour! Charley Ann Byrne was born at 23.55 on the 27th of August. Fast forward to the 5th of September, the launch happened, the hall was full, everyone had a fantastic time, friends were made, and a community came together. Eventually I no longer needed to use the service myself as my daughter started school, we elected a committee and the community are still running it. 10 years later it is one of the most successful Parent and Toddler groups in the country and still draws big numbers every week. I am very proud of the group to this day.
Dip in the Nip 2017 Sunday 16 2017
In 2012 I met a girl who like myself had lost a lot of friends and family to cancer. We were both very eager to fundraise for the Irish Cancer Society and decided to join forces. We met with the Irish Cancer society to discuss options and they told us they were rolling out a new campaign called ‘Get the Girls’. We thought this was great and I immediately recalled a conversation I’d had with a friend of mine who was receiving treatment at the time. We’d talked about us girls getting together with our glad rags on, dripping in diamonds, hiring a limo and having a great night out somewhere fabulous. We’d been making plans for when she got better. Unfortunately she never got better and passed away shortly after our conversation. Remembering this I blurted out ‘Why don’t we call it Pink & Bling” and with that Pink & Bling was born.
Thus began 5 months of full time planning with our venue The Black Bull. We had big ideas and no matter what mad hare-brained schemes we came up with (there were quite a few!) the lovely JP in the Black Bull always said ‘Yes, I can’t see why not’. So, red carpet, velvet ropes, candles, tanned topless waiters, champagne, goodie bags, DJ, Bands, the list was endless. I have to say it was a sight to behold and better still we pulled that night off with sponsorship from so many places that we actually ended up with zero financial expenses so 100 % of the money raised went directly to the charity.
When we handed over the cheque to The Irish Cancer Society they were in shock. It was unheard of to pull off a red carpet event like that with no financial outlay. We made a rule that we would not do business with anyone who was looking for financial payment. We paid them by advertising their business with all of our clients through social media. We were so professional everyone thought we were a PR firm. Little did they know we were just two people who wanted to make a difference. Losing people to cancer pushed my ‘lack of control’ button hard, so this event was something I could control and a platform where we could remember our loved ones and raise money for charity at the same time.
We pushed this event hard in the media and social media. The demand for tickets was phenomenal and we sold out in minutes, we even had a waiting list! It was a night filled with celebration and gratitude. There were cancer survivors, people in treatment, people facing treatment, people just finished treatment, people who were there representing their loved ones who had passed, people who loved someone who had or has cancer – from all walks of life. Listening to all of their stories was a humbling experience.
The night before the event I said I would never do it again as I was so exhausted I didn’t even know what my husband and kids looked like, naturally that didn’t last long. The day after the event we started planning for the following year! We knew the task was so big we needed to put a committee together. Louth Cancer Fundraising Group was formed. Pink & Bling 2013 was even more amazing than the first one. We had a bigger team, bigger venue (The Black Bull made a marquee extension to cope with the demand). Unsurprisingly we sold out again – that year we gave our donations to The Gary Kelly Centre, Drogheda.
One event per year wasn’t enough so we announced we would put a Mini Marathon team together as a ‘little event’ in June. By then we had a huge local following on our Facebook page. We announced one cold February night in 2013 that that we were starting a running group to train for the mini marathon, raise funds and hopefully get fit with the help of A&S Fitness who had offered to train us. These two guys are amazing and their attention to detail is second to none. The first night 72 women showed up at The Black Bull!!!!!! We didn’t know what to do as we never expected such a big turnout. We trained twice a week till the end of May. Needless to say, 72 + women running down the busy Dublin road was a sight to behold! We were famous! People clapped and cheered when they saw us coming. Restaurants let us use their bathrooms if we needed to. We chatted with each other, shared stories, encouraged and supported each other. It was a truly magical time. We hired coaches to get us all up to Dublin and ended up on the front page of The Herald.
While planning Pink & Bling 2013 my friend approached me to say she was doing a combined fundraiser with our children’s school and her Irish Dancing school called ‘Jigs to Jives’. When it’s for the kids I will do anything! While planning the Pink & Bling I trained with my husband for a dance competition. I loved every moment of it, had the best craic, met the nicest people, I was keeping fit and blowing off a bit of steam but as well as that I was getting to spend quality time with my husband Neil. Being on stage was nerve-wracking but I knew why I was doing it and my WHY was far greater than my fear.
By November 2013 I truly was exhausted and I wanted to spend time with the family. It wasn’t an easy decision but I had to prioritise myself for a while so I stepped down from the Louth Cancer Fundraising Committee. I took my children out for lunch that week as a treat and to spend some quality time with them. The following conversation occurred :
Jamie: ‘Mam I have been thinking. Now that you are retired I would like to do some charity work myself. My school told us all about the charity Laura Lynn and I would really like to help them. I think I should do a kids’ disco and donate all the money to them’
Charley: ‘I will help you Jamie’
My heart sank because I knew I would have to help them to some degree, I was mentally and physically exhausted at this time. I told Jamie & Charley that I wouldn’t be making any phone calls on their behalf, they’d to do all of this themselves and in fairness they did. They put a committee together of a few of their friends. They held meetings in each other’s houses. It was too cute. They secured the venue and got sponsorship etc. They were proper little diamonds every one of them. My heart exploded with pride at them both being so loving and conscientious. Well, they didn’t lick it off a stone, they had seen me do various things all their lives so it was the environment they were reared in.
And so, the baton was handed over….
After prosecco, zumba, interviews with LMFM, much laughter and removal of clothing into our robes ( Nicola changing behind her roller banners was hilarious!) we made our way to the buses. The location is top secret and even the bus drivers have no idea till we set off. So much fun on the bus and we arrived at our beach at last the time was getting closer and closer. Nerves were rising but we were all together and supporting each other.
We made our way down to the beach and placed our intentions on the wishing tree and said a prayer for a beloved friend who was battling the illness. The atmosphere on the beach was electric and the nervous tension seemed to evolve into excitement. A photographer came to take our group’s photo but said no way with robes on so that was it we whipped them off. The photo was taken along with a huge cheer from the crowd. However, the biggest cheer of the day was for our Sue when she stood proudly with her Dubs hat on and her Mayo flag flying in the wind, what a legend she is. Now it didn’t seem so scary we had already done it, next step was into the sea. All of a sudden a primal roar went up and ladies disrobed and ran…so we followed suit…our now party of six. We held hands and ran naked into the Irish Sea. Our little pocket rocket of the group,who is the smallest in stature,but with the biggest courage dragged us further out than we imagined we would go. Plunging down into the freezing water surrounded by laughter, shouting, crying, shrieking. We felt absolutely euphoric!!!
Back to the beach and dressed again we were all so happy and extremely proud of ourselves. Such an empowering and liberating feeling if you haven’t done it, DO IT!!!
We will be back again if you would like to join our Positive Mindset Group for this years event please get in touch xxx
DIP IN THE NIP
A chance meeting in a shopping centre in Drogheda between Janice and the team from NECRET (North East Cancer Research & Education Trust) led to an I AM POSITIVE MINDSET group taking part in the 2017 Dip in the Nip.
Strolling through the centre, Janice noticed a stand for the event, feeling brave after her recent parachute jump in aid of Crumlin Children’s Hospital she ventured over thinking about a new challenge. She spoke with Mary a beautiful kind lady who is a veteran of the event having dipped many times. She told Janice her brave story of how she had overcome cancer and was now thriving. The very charming Ciaran from NECRET chatted to Janice also and she told him in return of the great work we do here at I AM POSITIVE MINDSET. On the way home Janice phoned Nicola, and that was it – she was in with no hesitation and the Positive Mindset Dip in the Nipper group was born! Two soon became five as three of our Online Private Positive Mindset Family Group signed up. We set to work to raise as much as we could for this amazing charity.
On the morning of September 17th we met at the Westcourt Hotel in Drogheda. What a welcome, prosecco on arrival, smiles all around, fun and lots and lots of women! Janice went to register our group and in the queue met gorgeous Sue Masterson who was alone and travelled halfway up the country to be there. She wore a Dublin hat and bore a Mayo flag, she explained she was doing it in honour of her mother who had sadly passed. Also, having a parent from each of the counties she had loyalties to both on this the All Ireland Final day. She told Janice she was at the event because of “that lady over there”, pointing at who else but Nicola. “Amazing” exclaimed Janice, “we were meant to meet, I work with Nicola, you won’t be alone today. Join our group we would love to have you with us”. Sue came over and was warmly greeted with big hugs. She told Nicola of how after watching her video recently,she had signed up to Dip in the Nip and purchased a ticket to the workshop in the Gibson immediately.