About 6 months after we arrived in Ireland the presenter of the early morning show on our local radio station left. Among the new voices that took his place was one with a very ‘posh English’ accent. But Robbie Donnelly did not do much presenting in the months and years that followed. He became the voice of promotional events. Indeed, in those first weeks, in the spring and summer of 2007, he would turn up at a randomly selected home each breakfast time to present, live on air, a prize to any householder who could show him a loaf produced by a particular well known Irish baker.
Originally from the Channel Islands, Robbie’s distinctive, friendly voice became part of the background to our new lives. One of the delights of local radio, perhaps especially for incomers like us, is the way you get to know something of the personal lives of the presenters and their support staff. Over the 10 years since we first heard him, Robbie we learned how Robbie got married and started a family. Because of his role in promotions, his face became almost as well known as his voice. I met him in person on a couple of occasions when I entered one or other of the crazy competitions he devised.
Around the middle of last year, we realised that his voice, ever present in commercials up until then, had disappeared. This morning we discovered why. Robbie came on to the mid-morning current affairs programme to talk to the long time presenter about the reason for his absence.
His and his wife’s third child, Harry, was born in May of last year with Down’s Syndrome. But that was not all. Harry also had respiratory problems leading to the need for a tracheostomy. And then the really bad news – Robbie’s youngest child has leukemia. He has never been home. The whole of Harry’s 17 months of life have been spent in one or other of Ireland’s pediatric hospitals.
Robbie and his young wife have to spend long days and nights at the hospital, too, whilst at the same time trying to hold things together at home for the two older children. Robbie told his story in matter of fact terms, with no great show of emotion. He and his family are living every parent’s worst nightmare. A nightmare compounded by the fact that they live 100 km from the hospital.
Home from Home
But that was not the reason for his appearance on this morning’s Midlands Today Show. He has been helped enormously by a facility called Hugh’s House. It’s a place where the families of sick children can stay over at no cost. The hospitals provide limited accommodation for parents, but this is not suitable for families. Hugh’s House helps to keep families together in a ‘home from home’ whilst one of their children is undergoing treatment.
To show his gratitude Robbie is undertaking a fund-raising walk in January. He will take a million steps that month. To understand what this means, most people will take around 6,000 steps in a typical day. Robbie will be doing five times that number every day in January. About 25 km each day, whatever the weather.
Now, I know that not all of my readers are based in Ireland and that many of you have your own favourite charities that you support. But this seems to me to be a particularly worthwhile cause. Maybe there’s a similar facility serving families who live near you who have a child undergoing long term hospital treatment. I urge you to seek it out and offer your support.
And for those of you who are in Ireland, here’s a link to the GoFundMe page where you can join me in supporting Robbie’s appeal.