Claire Barrett with her daughter Roisin on the International Cystic Fibrosis Walk in Madeira

Claire and her flair for raising much needed charity funds

Originally from Dublin, Claire Barrett has lived in West Cork for nearly 50 years and has built her life in the small village of Crookhaven.

She has been running a guest house in Crookhaven, Marconi House, since 1977, but she retired 12 years ago and has done the opposite of slowing down.

Since her retirement, Claire has raised over €24,000 every year for various charities, and this has amounted to nearly €300,000 since she began.

Speaking with the Cork Independent, she said: “It all started with my neighbours who I was very close with. They had 4 wonderful children, 2 of which suffered with cystic fibrosis.”

When one of them, Mary passed away at the age of 27, Claire was devastated: “I’ll never forget that funeral. It was heartbreaking.

“Mary’s brother who also has cystic fibrosis came to me to explain that they wanted to fundraise for a sterile unit in CUH as they needed to be segregated from other patients within the hospital.”

So, without hesitation, Claire rallied the troops and held her first fundraiser in aid of Build for Life which was the fundraising project for the sterile ward.

Claire asked her son in law to help her fundraise and he came up with the idea of hosting a ‘60s night in the nearest town of Schull.

“A local bar gave me the use of their building for free and offered lots of prizes for raffles. I can’t remember the exact figure that we raised but it was equivalent to about €10,000 now. All the locals provided their services or donated prizes for the raffles.”

Thanks to Build for Life which raised the millions needed for the sterile unit, it was built in 2014.

After her 1st fundraiser, Claire was approached by the Cystic Fibrosis (CF) committee and was asked to help further.

She said: “What I now fundraise for is a fund controlled by parents who have kids with CF. It is a community pot that is always being filled, but you only have access to it if you suffer from CF. My whole life is so involved with the CF committee. I am involved with many parents with children with CF or whose kids have died from it.”

Ever since Claire started fundraising, she took on many other charities. Now she fundraises for about 10 different charities every year through various events that she organises.

“Every summer I start with a walk through the parish with a few others, shaking charity buckets for CF. I always do 10 pub quizzes throughout the parish.

“Then there are other events like a swim across the harbour, the New Year’s Day swim and my personal favourite, the Crab Race. They are all for various Irish or local charities like Down Syndrome Ireland, Bantry Hospice, the Underwater Search and Rescue Team etc.”

Every year Claire finishes off the summer with the CF International Walk which sees 30-35 people travelling abroad together to walk up to 100km to raise money.

“Everyone walks roughly 100km, but I set myself a personal challenge of 120km every year. This year the walk was in Madeira so there was a lot of mountain walking but next year it will be Malta so will be mostly along the coast. It was challenging this year just like every other year. It is always tough but just exhilarating to be a part of,” she continued.

The walk itself raises near to €100,000 for CF and Claire is always a part of it.

Already planning for next year’s events, Claire has no plans to stop fundraising and will continue to make a difference in so many people’s lives.

“Life has been good to me, I’m 68 now and as long as I have breath and health, I will continue doing it," she concluded.