Fr Tony Coote, a charismatic Dublin priest, was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in March 2018. He immediately decided to walk the length of Ireland, to raise awareness and funds for sufferers.
Fr Tony’s epic journey started with a warm send-off from Letterkenny in July. From then, he led a growing army of supporters 550km from Donegal to Ballydehob in Cork in less than a month.
Fr Tony set a fundraising target of €250,000 and invited all-comers to join him. Walk While You Can (wwyc.ie) was born.
A documentary airs on RTÉ One this Thursday 6th December at 10.15pm following Fr Tony Coote’s dogged and inspirational journey through Donegal, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Limerick and Cork. Along the way, viewers see how people join the walk, with communities the length of the country turning out to welcome and support him.
By the time the walk began, Tony’s rapidly deteriorating condition meant that he had already lost much of the power in his legs and was dependent on a wheelchair to move around.
He was warned that, even in a chair, the exertion of the walk posed a serious danger to his health, but he went ahead anyway.
Aware how many MND sufferers lose the power of speech, Tony was determined to use his voice to make a difference for other MND patients in the future.
He had been horrified to discover how little money is available to fund research and care for people with MND in Ireland. Around 150 Irish people are diagnosed each year, but there are currently only three dedicated nurses looking after them, funded entirely by charitable donations.
Tony’s neurologist, Prof. Orla Hardiman, also made him aware that there had been no significant advances in treatment for 24 years, because of a lack of research funding.
‘Walking the Walk’ on RTÉ One will capture Fr Tony’s determination as he leads a journey of celebration, rather than sorrow.
By the end of filming, Tony and his fellow pilgrims had raised over half a million euro for the cause – more than double his target – and his inspirational campaign had raised awareness of MND to a whole new level.
He’s not finished, either. There is now even hope of a breakthrough in the medical treatment of the condition, so, just as he had intended, Tony’s campaign is bringing hope to a condition that many regard as hopeless.
Walking the Walk airs on RTÉ One at 10.15pm, on 6th December – watch out for some familiar faces as Fr. Tony’s journey begins in Letterkenny.