The terrain on the Camino can be very difficult. Photo: Julie Gerlach

Joe will walk 500 miles

By Katie O'Keeffe

A Cork man is walking the Camino next week for Ronald McDonald House & Cork Penny Dinners.

Joe D’Alton will be walking the Camino de Santiago starting on 26 April from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago - a distance of approximately 800kms, almost 500 miles. It will take 35 days to complete and it is a challenge Joe welcomes.

Speaking to the Cork Independent he said: “I am doing it to try and raise funds for the two charities, which are really close to my heart.”

Mr D’Alton’s target goal is €10,000 which he hopes to split evenly between the two charities.

Joe’s grandson Ben was born in 2006 with Hypo Plastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a rare congenital heart defect which affects 1 in 100,000 people.

It means Ben was born with an underdeveloped heart on the left side. This part of the heart typically holds the largest pump out of the two and delivers blood to the body.

“As you can imagine, we were terrified. Ben was only eighteen hours old when he had his first surgery. His heart was the size of my thumb nail, I still to this day can’t comprehend what was happening,” Joe explained.

After numerous surgeries and procedures over five years while Ben was in Crumlin Children’s Hospital, Joe’s family had the use of a room in Ronald McDonald House.

“We were staying in B&Bs and the cost to stay in Dublin - it all adds up so when we got into Ronald McDonald it was one less worry as Ben required complete focus.”

Ben will be 15 on 12 March this year, thanks to the skill of doctors, nurses and all the support staff in Crumlin Children’s Hospital, they have given him a second chance at life.

“Ben is the most beautiful person, at only 15 he has such an empathic soul and would ironically give someone his heart if they needed it,” Joe explained.

Ronald McDonald House is in place to provide accommodation and a caring, supportive environment for families whose children are undergoing medical treatment at CHI at Crumlin.

Ronald McDonald House will be relocating to the new National Children’s Hospital and they will be providing 53 bedrooms and other badly needed resources for families.

This is a vital and precious support that families with critically sick children need.

Joe’s second chosen charity is Cork Penny Dinners.

He said: “I have seen first-hand effort and work that Catriona Twomey and all the volunteers give, in selfless acts of kindness and compassion to those who need it the most.”

He added: “Penny dinners is vital to Cork and can only keep going with the help of funding so I'm only doing what I can for them.”