EIGHTEEN golden-hearted mums are taking part in their first marathon today to raise funds for their best friend, who needs her house converted after falling victim to a debilitating disease.
Mother-of-two Emma Fitzpatrick was diagnosed with motor neurone disease last September, a condition that has severely restricted her mobility and robbed her of her ability to speak.
Emma (43), who friends say had "the perfect family life", can now only communicate through an iPad and needs round-the-clock care at her home in Kinsale, Co Cork.
Although she's applied for a grant from Cork County Council to help convert the downstairs of her house, her friends are leaving nothing to chance and have vowed to raise the €12,000 needed themselves.
Siobhan Devlin, one of the 18 mothers taking part in today's Cork City Marathon, said: "It's heartbreaking to see what this disease has done to Emma.
"She would do anything for her two young children, but unfortunately she now needs 24/7 care. It just happened very suddenly. About a year ago her speech went, but it wasn't until September that the first diagnosis was made."
The friends bought her an iPad so she could communicate with them and one of the messages that Emma keeps telling them is her frustration at no longer being able to look after her children, Rowan (6) and Alanna (3).
Emma's primary carer is now her husband, Johnny.
Communicating on her iPad, the former English language teacher, whose mind is still perfectly intact, said: "Despite the pessimistic predicted outcome by the medics, I have managed to look beyond this and am choosing good health and wellness in my body and mind and this has been the key to my positive outlook in the present and into the future."
She added: "I would love everyone to know just how grateful I am for the overwhelming show of love and support."
Her 18 friends are part of a 10,000-strong crowd taking part in the Bord Gais Energy Cork City Marathon 2011 today.