Patrick Staunton picking up his sponsorship card from James Galvin (5) from Taughmaconnell.

Patrick’s a ‘real inspiration’ to local family’s appeal

A Ballinasloe man has been described as a “real inspiration” for kickstarting the 31 Miles in May fundraising effort to help a young Taughmaconnell boy get vital surgery.

Patrick Staunton from Laurencestown, who is a service user in Rainbow Services run by the Brothers of Charity in Ballinasloe, came up with the idea after hearing about the fundraising appeal for James Galvin who needs to raise €100,000 for lifechanging spinal surgery in America.

Without it, the five-year-old St Ronan's NS pupil faces the prospect of not being able to walk independently by the age of 11 or 12, and will have to rely on a wheelchair in his teenage years.

“I got posters made and sponsorship cards and I decided to do a mile a day in May,” Patrick told the Westmeath Independent, and from there, it took off with more and more people joining his walking effort, so much so that there were over 200 sponsorship cards distributed.

Back in March, Patrick took part in the 70 Miles for 70 Years effort for Ballinasloe AFC and raised over €3,000 in the process, completing over 100 miles by the middle of the month. He became a bit of a local celebrity on his walks, with people putting up signs for him and wishing him well, according to Breda Donnellan from Rainbow Services. Patrick wanted to keep that going and when he heard James' story the idea for 31 Miles of May was born.

“It skyrocketed for us. We didn't think it would be as big,” explained Breda, who said they had participants in America, Athlone, from St Ciaran's NS, Moore, St Ronan's NS Taughmaconnell, the Village Creche, the Parent/Child programme in Ballinasloe along with their own staff and supporters.

Patrick, who was joined on his walks at the weekends by his brother Enda, sister-in-law Rita and his niece Sarah, made motivational videos to encourage people to keep going, and he and Breda regularly posted on a specially set up page.

“His family are so proud of him. He has been so motivated, it has been brilliant. He's a real inspiration to us all,” added Breda, who said while there are waiting for a final total from the cards to come in, they believe it will be a big boost to the Join James' Journey appeal.

Patrick Staunton from Ballinasloe with Breda Donnellan.

And Elizabeth Galvin, mother of James could not be more thankful to Patrick Staunton and everyone who took part in the initiative throughout the 31 days of May.

“I never imagined so many would get involved to help us,” Elizabeth said, thanking Patrick in particular for kickstarting the whole idea.

With the operation James needs unavailable in Ireland, his family set up a GoFundMe page back in February with a €100,000 target, and at the time of going to press, it currently stands at €62,913.

She has a simple message to everyone who has supported them so far: “Thank you! I'll be saying thank you for the rest of my days. People are so good, it's unbelievable with restrictions that the biggest thing we were able to do was walks”.Elizabeth also paid tribute to her friend Michelle Dowling who started a coppers collection for small change in Athlone which has already raised close to €800, while Michelle's mother and aunt raised almost €1,000 doing the 31 Miles of May walking challenge.

Elizabeth, who is originally from Athlone, she also thanked everyone who donated prizes for their current venture – an online raffle with over 60 great prizes.

The other big news is that James, who has cerebral palsy which resulted in spasticity, a condition in which muscles stiffen or tighten, preventing normal fluid movement, has a date for his first surgery with the world-renowned Dr TS Park, the world's top neurosurgeon who performs a surgery called selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) at St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri.

“The surgery is on August 3, we're flying over (to America) on July 30 and we have to go into the hospital for a final evaluation on August 2, and then the operation the following day,” said Elizabeth on Thursday. The money raised to date will cover the costs of the first surgery, but he will need a second operation and intensive physio.

“Basically, it takes away the tightness, that spasticity, that will be gone forever,” she explained in February, saying he will have to spend three to five days in bed after the main surgery, which is followed by a muscle lengthening operation and then intensive physio for three weeks, followed by further physio when he returns home for up to a year.

“It's going to change his life – there is no doubt about that. It'll change for the better, otherwise, his life will change but not for the better,” Elizabeth said when the appeal was first launched earlier this year.

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