Charlie Bird hails public support for charities as ‘silver lining’ of illness – The Irish Times

Charlie Bird says he’s been “blessed” with support for his charity work since he was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, describing it as “an incredible silver lining” to his terminal illness.

The veteran journalist celebrated the one year anniversary of the Climb with Charlie fundraiser on Saturday with a 5km walk at Papal Cross in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

Bird was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in 2021 and last year the former RTÉ broadcaster climbed Croagh Patrick to raise money for Pieta House and the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association (IMNDA). Walks and climbs took place across Ireland and resulted in over €3.6 million being raised for the charities.

At the Phoenix Park event, Bird addressed the charity’s officials, advocates and friends as he urged people across the country to light a candle to show their support for everyone with a terminal illness, those battling mental illness, and to show the many others who are close to his heart.

“What I wanted to do for the anniversary is very simple. I want to keep reaching out the hand of friendship to people,” he said.

He also thanked President Michael D. Higgins for his support and for lighting a candle in Áras an Uachtaráin in support of Climb with Charlie.

“Yes, being diagnosed with a terminal illness was very traumatic for me and my family, but the truth is there was an incredible silver lining as well. I’ve seen the vital work of many charities,” added Bird.

“I keep repeating this, as long as I have a breath in my body I will continue to extend the hand of friendship. I have been blessed by the amount of support I have received from across the country and abroad and I want to thank these people by continuing to work hard for everyone.”

The event was master of ceremonies by architect and TV presenter Dermot Bannon, who spoke of how privileged he feels to be friends with Bird and his wife Claire Mould.

“Charlie chose to climb with people, make an effort and stand by. The most important word in all of Charlie’s climbing was the word “with” because he and we were all together and together. It was an amazing experience last year and I will never forget it for the rest of my life and I’m so grateful to be a part of it,” Bannon said.

“Charlie, you are an incredible inspiration, not just because of the amount of money, not just because of the amount of work, but just because you make us approach each other and be kind to each other and show kindness and think about each other.”


Bird also lit five candles before the walk. One commemorated Vicky Phelan, who was a good friend of his before she died of cervical cancer in November. The others were lit for everyone with a terminal illness, for everyone in a dark place, for frontline workers and for the people of Ukraine.

Pieta chief executive officer Stephanie Manahan called Bird a “true national treasure.”

“It’s really important for us to recognize this event at this time last year, but more importantly, to thank Charlie for the amazing effort in raising really much-needed funds for important and life-saving work every day,” said Ms. Manahan.

To honor Bird for the money he raised last year, Pieta House dedicated a therapy room to him at his new location in Swords, naming it the Charlie Bird Therapy Room.

Naomi Fitzgibbon, director of care and services at IMNDA, referred to the “monumental day” that took place last year.

“I remember reading about it and listening to it and thinking, ‘What impact is this going to have? It’s going to be incredible. It’s done so many things, it’s raised awareness of people with motor neuron disease and how they live with it and the support they need,” said Ms Fitzgibbon.

“What we’ve been able to achieve with the funds raised by Charlie is just amazing, it’s almost like the dream we wanted, which is that we now have a sixth nurse who is now able to provide that support, that care , this attention, this information for people and their families and everyone living with MND.”

Irish Armed Forces Chief of Staff Seán Clancy also spoke at the event and said it was a “privilege” to know Charlie and “to be with him on this journey”.

Other charities and organizations taking part in the 5km walk included The Samaritans, Vicky Phelan’s family and friends, Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, Dogs Trust, frontline workers, Stardust families, the Irish Wheelchair Association and members the LGBTQ+ community. Charlie Bird hails public support for charities as ‘silver lining’ of illness – The Irish Times

Dais Johnston

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