Throughout the COVID-19 health pandemic, there have been many examples of our communities responding to the exceptional circumstances to help those in need. Here, Chris Gallagher shares his story.

The Original Challenge – Lourdes Cycle 2020
I’m blessed to have good health to help the vulnerable and elderly in our local District area. I was training for Lourdes cycle 2020 from summer 2019, fundraising for the Irish Pilgrimage Trust (a charity which was to take special needs children to Lourdes over the Easter week). As part of the Lourdes Cycle 2020 I was due to cycle 100+ kilometres a day over a week spent cycling along the top of France through coastline of beautiful country and over the Pyrenees  mountains. I was then due to cycle into Lourdes Grotto on Good Friday where I hoped to spend the Easter weekend with the children. I was delighted to raise over £3,000 for the Irish pilgrimage Trust to support taking the children out to Lourdes for respite however, unfortunately with the pandemic that was unfolding, all was cancelled and our cycle to Lourdes has been postponed until Easter 2022.

A Change in Direction
My Lourdes calling was to be at home to help the elderly and vulnerable in our District. I jumped on the bike and cycled up on 20-30 miles a day, delivering foods and medical supplies. The most important part was the quick chats enjoyed with the recipients. This was particularly significant for the elderly who lived on their own as it provided an opportunity to lift their spirits, have a laugh and sometimes shed a tear. I just felt privileged to be there to listen to their stories however, it was often very tough not to be able to give them a hug, especially when visiting my own mum and her 90-year old friend.

The New Challenge – A Barefoot Duathlon
As I saw the great financial need around me, in addition to the need of the health service who were lacking in scrubs to tackle the pandemic, I decided to partake in a lockdown challenge on 15 April. I decided to organise a fundraiser to support Omagh Scrubs (a local community group which got together to make scrubs for NHS health service workers) and Omagh/ Killyclogher SVP. This took the form of a Barefoot duathlon, consisting of a 10k Barefoot run around the garden, 40k cycle (2km loops) followed by another 10k run around garden, all in-keeping with COVID-19 regulations. I had great support that day from local family and friends/neighbours and the charities’ representatives. Great camera work from Kieran McMullin (KMACVISION), Peter McNulty on his drone (Ireland from the Sky) and Jude Brown (Ulster Herald Photography) helped to document the day, as well as great video work from Sara O’Kane of UTV live.

A Huge Success
A massive £3,500 was raised and shared between Omagh Scrubs , Killyclogher SVP And Omagh SVP along with over £1,000 of food for the food banks of SVP.
Lockdown 2020 was a personal blessing and  humbling experience to say the least!