Arlene Guilfoyle Beatty pictured with her late husband, Donal.

"Donal is right beside me in every step I take"

One of the simple pleasures that Killeigh couple, Arlene Guilfoyle Beatty and her husband, Donal, always enjoyed was going for a walk. It was also one of the first joys to be robbed from Donal after he was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of lymphoma in August 2021 and passed away just seven months later.

Before his untimely passing, Donal Beatty had expressed a wish to organise a fundraiser for cancer care services, and now his brave wife and only daughter, 19-year old Emma, have decided to honour that wish by taking part in the 100 Miles in March fundraising event for the Irish Hospice Foundation.

The fundraiser, which set an initial target of €500, has already raised in excess of €7,000 with Arlene Beatty admitting that over €2,000 had been raised before she or Emma had “ever walked a step”.

Arlene is “just overwhelmed” by the generosity of everyone, and adds that the fundraiser has given her family “a real boost” as they approach the sad occasion of Donal's second anniversary next week. “I had always intended doing a fundraiser to give something back to those who gave so much to us during Donal's illness, but I supposed I wasn't really in the headspace to do it up to this,” she admits.

Having her beloved husband pass away in his own home on Fenter Lane in Killeigh, surrounded by his family and close friends, gave Arlene Guilfoyle Beatty and her family “enormous comfort” and she says this would not have been possible without the “wonderful care and support” provided by the palliative care nurses who are funded by the Irish Hospice Foundation.

“When Donal did pass away it was so peaceful, and it is a huge source of comfort to us that he was in the place he loved most, his own home, and among the people he loved, during his final days,” she says.

When Arlene spotted an ad for the 100 Miles in March fundraiser for the Irish Hospice Foundation she felt it was “the perfect fit in so many ways” so she decided to take on the challenge with the couple's only daughter, Emma. The dynamic duo have been walking every day since March 1 in order to complete the 100 mile target before the end of the month, with Arlene pointing out that both of them have decided to complete the challenge separately, which means they will walk a combined total of 200 miles by April 1 next!

“I can't even explain how much of a lift the fundraiser has given us,” admits Arlene Guilfoyle Beatty, who also has two sons, 23-year old Sean, and Ronan, who is 21. It has given me such a positive focus and I feel Donal is right there beside me in every step I take on this challenge.”

Arlene has set up a special Facebook page “I'm taking on 100 Miles in March for Irish Hospice Foundation” for her fundraiser and has been providing daily updates on her progress towards her goal. She was delighted this week to pass the half way mark having completed her longest walk so far by walking a 7km stretch of the Grand Canal alongside one of her walking buddies, Breeda Jones.

Having worked for 21 years with Laois County Council, before transferring to Offaly County Council, Arlene says her work colleagues have been “hugely supportive” of her fundraising efforts as has the “entire community” in their beloved Killeigh and far beyond.

“I don't think people actually realise the service that the Irish Hospice Foundation provides so I am hoping that this fundraiser will help to raise awareness of their work as well” she says.

As well as accepting donations on the Facebook page, and also on their Instagram accounts, Arlene and Emma also have sponsorship cards where people can donate.

“We are totally blown away by the amount of money we have raised, and it is climbing every day” says Arlene, who says “every single donation will be acknowledged”.

The Beatty family in Killeigh are hoping that the funds raised as a result of their walking challenge will give other families the opportunity to avail of the vital palliative care service being provided by the Irish Hospice Foundation in their hour of need, and that it will provide as much care and comfort as they did for their family this time two years ago.