Wednesday, February 23, 2022

By Sean Murray

Charlie Bird has thanked the Irish public and praised their “unbelievable support” ahead of a charity climb of Croagh Patrick in just over five weeks’ time.

The former RTÉ journalist was in Dunnes Stores at Stephen’s Green in Dublin on Wednesday as the retailer joined his efforts and will ask customers to add an extra €2 to their shopping to give to the Climb with Charlie campaign.

Mr Bird was recently diagnosed with motor neurone disease and is set to climb the Mayo mountain with dozens of others. All the money raised will go to Pieta House and the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association.

In just six weeks, nearly €500,000 has been raised so far with support coming from the likes of Bono, Daniel O’Donnell, and Gabriel Byrne.

Social media sensation

Charlie Bird’s efforts have become something of a social media sensation in recent months, with dozens of letters from schools joining the well-wishes and messages of support.

Sharing a letter he’d received from pupils at a school in Kerry this week, he tweeted: “In one day alone such beautiful messages from three schools. I am so uplifted by all your support. And dozens of schools are sending me messages of support.”

The idea for the Croagh Patrick climb came after Mr Bird’s diagnosis when he was chatting in a WhatsApp group with former RTÉ colleagues, particularly those from the west.

“It came from my head,” he said. “I’ve climbed it four, or five, times before. Going down is always the toughest part.”

Accompanied by his wife Claire, she said Charlie would be well able for the climb.

“Charlie is really physically fit,” she said. “He’s as fit as fiddle. He would walk 14km a day.”

And it’s not just about raising the money. It’s making people come together. It’s the solidarity. And for people who have mental or physical mountains they want to climb.

While Mr Bird’s voice is deteriorating, he has enlisted the help of an Irish company called Marino software to help retain the ability to communicate through speech.

Using old recordings of him speaking, the software is able to render sentences in his own voice as he types them.

“It’s brilliant,” Claire said. “And it’s really good for friends and family to be able to hear his voice.”

Switching to an iPad to use the technology, Mr Bird tapped on a piece of text he’d typed out which then played using his own voice.

“In the grim situation I am in not knowing when my life is going to end, this technology devised by an Irish company has given me a whole new lease of life,” he said.

Show of solidarity

Praising Dunnes Stores for coming onboard with the campaign, he said it was an “amazing show of solidarity”.

Mr Bird said: “Not just for me, but for the two fantastic charities close to my heart who are going to benefit from these fundraising efforts that are spreading right across the country.

“By lending your support, you will be directly helping lots of people who have their own difficult mountains to climb every day.”

The charity climb is taking place on Saturday, April 2, and supporters can register their own fundraisers, make donations or find out where to join local climbs on the Climb With Charlie website.

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