The No Barriers Foundation stepped into Christmas in style this week with a unique fundraiser celebrating the abilities and strength of all service users.
The Donegal-based non-profit hosted a Walkathon challenge on Thursday, which saw six people clocking up 6,000 steps in an exoskeleton. The No Barriers exoskeleton enables people with disabilities, including those who are wheelchair users, to stand up and walk.
The festive fundraiser took place in a virtual form, with supporters following events from the No Barriers Centre on social media and sponsoring each of the 6,000 steps on GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/no-barriers-walkathon-2020
Almost €5,000 has been raised so far in support of the six exercisers who conquered the challenge: Ciara Devenney from Annagry, Mary Gallagher from Gaoth Dobhair, Anita Jackson from Burtonport, Rose McNulty from Donegal Town, Conor Connolly from Castlederg and Brigid McGinley from Fanad.
The event was also an occasion for No Barriers exercisers to look back on their progress in 2020.
Ciara Devenney, aged 32, was using a wheelchair this time last year, but this Christmas she is back on her feet after making remarkable progress with No Barriers.
Having sustained injuries in a car accident, Ciara came to No Barriers with just a flicker of movement in her right leg. She trained in the exoskeleton suit for a number of months, and in March, she had the incredible breakthrough of seeing her toe wiggle again.
Since then, Ciara has progressed to a variety of specialised rehab equipment and physiotherapy and can walk with crutches.
Ciara says: “When I came out of hospital there was no plan.
“It was such a relief when I found out about No Barriers, it couldn’t believe there was somewhere I could go for help.
“Only for them, I would still be sitting in the chair.”
Mary Gallagher, aged 19, has also been stepping closer to her goals with No Barriers.
No Barriers has been a game-changer for the young Gaoth Dobhair student, who suffered a back injury as a teenager and lost the power in her right leg. She has been learning to walk again with exoskeleton therapy and physiotherapy with the team of in-house physiotherapists and exercise therapists.
“No Barriers has helped me strengthen my body and get me healthy and strong enough to go back to college to do my nursing course. They’ve given me back so much confidence and self esteem that I’d lost and given me the belief that I can do anything I set my mind to,” Mary says.
“Thanks to them, I’m back in college training to be a nurse, something that without their help and support wouldn’t have been possible.”
Anita Jackson, aged 43, has also been building up strength with the support of No Barriers. Anita suffered a life-changing spinal injury from a fall in 2016, and since moving to Donegal, she has trained with No Barriers to develop an exercise regime suited to her needs.
“The support and encouragement I get from the Physios is amazing, they do care and they do encourage you. I always feel positive and happy after a session with the Physio team at No Barriers,” Anita says.
Rose Mc Nulty attends No Barriers for exercise therapy suited to her Multiple Sclerosis.
Rose says: “There’s nothing else like it in the North West, and here we have the highest incidence of MS in Ireland. I was delighted they were able to open again after lockdown. I missed my exercise big time.
“The one thing I am sure of next year is I will be going to No Barriers again. The boys are so good and so helpful, you just feel at home and I enjoy the craic too. The new place is super.”
The No Barriers Foundation has opened a new rehabilitation centre at FitHub Letterkenny this year, where service users from all over the north west are invited to avail of neuro-rehab support for stroke, MS, brain injury or spinal cord injury.
The organisation is reliant on donations and fundraising to meet the €120,000 annual cost of running the service. With fundraising opportunities dashed in 2020, the Walkathon has emerged as a positive boost for the year ahead.
No Barriers Foundation Chairman Johnny Loughrey said: “We would like to say a huge thanks to everyone that’s helped get us through this difficult time to date. The committees and staff on the ground have been amazing.
“We are hugely grateful to everyone who has donated to the Walkathon fundraiser so far. Thanks to our Ambassador Nikki Bradley for her support and thanks to Kelly’s Centra Mountain Top for generously sponsoring a hamper for our draw.
“The biggest thanks of all has to go to our amazing No Barriers exercisers who have adapted and continue to work hard at their rehab breaking down barriers every day.”
To sponsor steps in the No Barriers Walkathon please visit: https://gf.me/u/zatdcwTags: