Donegal hurling great Jamesie Donnelly is about to embark on a personal challenge for a charity close to his heart.
The Stranorlar native will run a marathon in June in memory of his daughter Evanne, who passed away three years ago. Baby Evanne was sadly diagnosed with triploid syndrome and was stillborn at Letterkenny University Hospital on 23rd of February 2018.
“She was a perfect baby but her internal organs were never going to survive in the outside world,” Jamesie told Donegal Daily.
“It was the worst day of our lives, we knew we were going to lose her. We were just praying every day that maybe we could be the miracle couple that she would survive, but she left us a week before she was due.”
During that time of heartbreaking loss, a charity called Féileacain rowed in behind Jamesie and his wife Claire. The couple received great support and comforting gestures such as a memory box of the short time they had with Evanne and teddy bears for their eldest children, Ella May and James.
Those simple but special forms of support have inspired Jamesie and Claire to give back a number of times. In 2018, the year of Evanne’s passing, the family held a Tractor Run which raised over €10,000 for Féileacain. The funds went towards the ‘Butterfly’ bereavement room in the Maternity Unit at Letterkenny University Hospital.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions this year, Jamesie and Claire decided to continue their support by doing something different and more local in the form of a marathon on 5th June.
“When something is close to your heart, it means so much more to you,” Jamesie said.
Jamesie is planning to run a full marathon, and he’ll be joined by some friends for sections along the way. Claire will join in for the last 10km. The final kilometre will see Jamesie, Claire, Ella (aged 9) and Jamesie (7) cross the finish line together. The family welcomed a new baby, Fiadh, last September.
It is hoped that, by the time summer comes around, restrictions will allow family and friends to support this poignant and personal challenge.
Jamesie is already benefiting from top support from his former hurling teammates, who he fought many battles with on the field during his 17 years with Donegal.
The marathon is also spreading crucial awareness for Féileacáin and their volunteer led services.
Talking about their loss gets no easier after three years, Jamesie says, “but if it helps Féileacain we’re all for it.”
“Every family goes through some kind of struggle in life, if you can give back, it’s great for your mental health too. I was no different after losing Evanne.
“Everything kind of happened at once, I retired from playing that year too. There was a big void. Now, I find training for the marathon is brilliant.”
Jamesie and Claire have thanked every person who has supported their fundraiser so far. You can visit the GoFundMe page here: https://gofund.me/c274cb5e and follow the page for updates in the run up to 5th June.
If you would like to learn more about supports offered by Féileacáin (The Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Association of Ireland) visit: www.feileacain.ie