Dara Kelleher, 6, was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2020.

Get ready to pedal for the POONs

The father of a young boy battling leukaemia plans to honour the pain his son has endured by completing a gruelling cycling fundraiser for MUH.

Noel and Coeurena Kelleher’s son Dara was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in January 2020, just weeks before his 3rd birthday.

In the 3 and a half years that followed, Noel described the support his family received from MUH’s Paediatric Oncology Outreach Nursing Service (POONS) as a “Godsend”.

POONS is the only service of its kind in Ireland which allows children with cancer to receive vital treatment in the comfort of their own home.

Dara’s dad Noel told the Cork Independent: “That's been key for us, saving Dara having to go to hospital, especially in Covid; the fact that they would come out to the house, we could live a normal life.

“Every time he got into the car there was a risk, and we didn't know how he would fare.”

On 22 April, ‘Dara gives back - Pedal for the POONS’ will see Dara’s dad Noel, together with friends Mike McGrath, Danny Dwyer and Pearse O’Malley, take on a gruelling 12 hour cycle from 5am-5pm at Ballincollig GAA Club, completing over 1,250kms between them.

Throughout the day, over 30 other cyclists will join them at the club to lend their support.

An underage blitz for girls and boys from 8 to 13 years will also take place on the day.

The event has already raised more than €37,000 and Noel hopes to smash their target of €40,000 to show his eternal gratitude to the life-changing service POONS has provided for his family.

“The idea is that the pain is reflective of what Dara has gone through. He's a fighter, he's our hero in this. What he has been put through and the amount of medication he's taken – we’ve taken so much comfort from his strength,” said Noel.

In 2021 alone, the Mercy POONS nurses travelled 23,654 kilometres to provide 550 home visits to families. It costs the Mercy Hospital Foundation €30,000 each year to continue to keep this service mobile.

Dara’s mum Coeurena said: “Dara is now a very happy 6 year old, who loves playing sport with his brothers Noah and Jack, and who has made lots of friends. His fun-loving nature, resilience and determination is remarkable. Our hope is that in raising money, POONS can continue to support families like ourselves and ease the journey a little.”