CHARITIES nominated for this year's Ring of Kerry Cycle were counting their blessings following this year's astonishing fundraiser with a figure of almost €1.2m announced at a special celebration dinner in The Gleneagle on Friday night.
All fingers had been crossed ahead of the big announcement - would it reach the magic seven figures? As each figure was brought to the stage, choreographed to the beat of a drum, the tension rose until it was revealed that a whopping €1,151,217 had been collected.
Disbelief, then resounding applause, indeed it almost required a double take as PRO Cathal Walshe revealed an annual rise of €309,000 for this 30th anniversary year.
It brought smiles to the lucky beneficiaries present and speaking to The Kerryman on the night, many revealed how vital projects were now underway as a direct result of funds promised.
Tralee based Recovery Haven committee member Dan Collins revealed that exciting new plans to expand services had only just been announced to staff. "This week we have informed our volunteers we are now able to purchase the house next door to extend our facilities."
"It has been in the pipeline for a short time but we were unable to proceed until The Ring of Kerry came through for us and it has helped progress the plans in concrete terms. A new building will enable Recovery Haven to expand services that make such a difference to the journey cancer sufferers travel."
Chairman of Cúnamh Iveragh Brendan Murphy revealed that when the Cahersiveen based organisation was first nominated it opened a new chapter for adults with special needs in the area.
"Last December when we knew we were going to be one of the beneficiaries. It gave us the confidence to go ahead and purchase our house - an eight bedroom facility - as we knew we would have the required funds in addition to funds raised locally," Mr Murphy said. "With the help of Kerry Parents and Friends, people will be moving into the day service from next week and, long term, we hope to provide respite and residential care."
It's the third time the Kerry Branch of the Irish Society of Autism has been selected and funds will go towards Dromavalla Autism Specific Residential Service, a centre that was purchased four years ago to help adults with autism,
"Renovations started 18 months ago and I'm delighted to say that last week it has finished and we have a fantastic new facility now," Chairman Jim Adams said.
Down Syndrome Ireland Kerry Branch were nominated charities between 2007-2009 and this year marked a welcome return for a group that annually assists over 200 Kerry families.
"We have no government funding so the money tonight will safeguard us into the future to provide services such as speech and occupational therapy, run an adult education programme and support employment at Deenagh Lodge," committee member Denis Cronin said.
Kerry Rape Crisis Manager Vera O'Leary said her organisation would have to hold a fundraiser every week for an entire year to raise the kind of money gathered by the Ring cycle. "This is more than just a fundraiser, it's about the publicity it generates as sexual violence is such a difficult topic and it will get people talking and enable us to respond to so many more people," she added.
Other charities benefitting include Kerry Lifeline at SouthWest Counselling Centre who will continue to provide free professional counselling and support services for people who may have attempted or are actively contemplating suicide. Pieta House representatives say they will continue to support services to cater for its Suicide and Self Harm crisis centres which are free of charge while Kerry Mountain Rescue Team members added that they will continue to fund vital life-saving equipment for its 35 volunteers across Kerry and Cork.