by Ken Campbell
How does one even begin to describe what happened in Ballinasloe on the weekend of the 21st/22nd of March..!!
St Michael’s Square was awash with colour, while the sun shone and a cool gentle breeze blew across the horse and his handler on what has to have been the most beautiful day of the year. Hundreds of People gathered to take part in not just a Walk but a momentous occasion. A Special Journey for Special Needs “Miles for Emma” was the event and those taking part were about to embark on the non-stop Journey from Ballinalsoe to Dublin to Stop the continued Discrimination of Children with Special Needs, Promote Equality and awareness and Highlight the failures with regards to services for Children with Special Needs.
With nearly 400 walkers stretching as far as the Suck Bridge to Creagh Church in a sea of Pink, the chosen colour of the Miles for Emma Bibs, we marched on.
The majority of the crowd were walking the 13 miles to Athlone with a group of nearly 45 continuing on and walking through the streets of Athlone bound for Moate.
Arriving in Moate, we enjoyed a meal in Supermac’s and I have to say even after 25 miles, spirits were high and everyone was in good shape. Over 30 walkers left Moate fed and watered flanked by the Civil Defence with a determination to reach Kilbeggan before night fall, a feat which was achieved in style.
Numbers dropped again to around 20 at this stage with the main group still in great form and still not daunted by the task that faced us. After a short respite we moved off with torches a glow, our next Target was Kinnegad. We knew this would be the toughest stretch of the journey and without question was the longest leg – the night was pitch and temperatures dropped to minus one, which contradict any belief that hell is warm. Never the less the toll started to show as we lost 5 more between Tyreellspass and Kinnegad leaving the final core group of 15. For those remaining it wasn’t just about physical strength anymore but mental strength – something they showed in abundance motivating each other and motivating me.
We walked through the night with small villages coming and going – places I hadn’t seen nor visited since the opening of the motorway and apart from one sign welcoming me to Enfield which just happened to be about 3 miles out side the town everything was going well as we passed through each Village without anyone even knowing we were there apart from the odd noisy dog who decided to welcome us and cheer us on as we past their gates.
At this stage Nothing was going to stop us, we had the civil defence looking after us making sure we wanted for nothing and as we left Maynooth the plan was simple get to the Ashling… we negotiated our way through Leixlip and Lucan with the help of the Civil Defence who I can safely say went above and beyond the call of Duty and I’m not alone when I say if it wasn’t for those Guys I don’t believe we would have made it.. they are a credit to their uniforms their officers and Ballinasloe and for that I will be forever great full as will everyone who walked on both days.
We entered Dublin city where we were greeted by family, friends and supporters and that’s not to mention those who had walked on Saturday and travelled up and rejoined us for the last few miles…
For me there was the added bonus of reaching the Ashling Hotel in Dublin because my Wife Michelle and my Daughters Claire and Emma where there waiting for me… To say it was emotional would be an understatement… we celebrated our achievement but couldn’t rest on our laurels as we still had the last 2 miles up O’Connell Street to go… on arrival at the Hospital we were greeted by the Staff who were delighted to see us and appreciated everything we had done… to date the total money raised for the Metabolic unit is €13,000 and counting. People can still donate online at www.idonate.ie/milesforemma
I’d like to take this Opportunity to Thank everyone who walked with me especially those who completed the full journey… we’ve shared something very special and I believe we have made a difference even if this is only the first step on our journey.
Special recognition needs to go to the Civil Defence for their continued support and Kenny Cabs of Ballinasloe who donated 2 buses for both days and insured everyone got home safely and My Mum Helen Campbell who made sure everyone had something to eat.”
By Ken Campbell.
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