Charlie Bird gets a lift from the support he receives from students, parents and teachers in visits to Mayo schools
Former RTÉ news reporter Charlie Bird has said he was blown away by the warm welcome he received on Friday morning from the 340 pupils at Scoil Phádraig Westport during a visit ahead of his ‘Climb With Charlie’ fundraiser.
The principal, staff and pupils invited the former RTÉ broadcaster to walk the daily mile with them at the school having heard about his plans to climb Croagh Patrick on April 2.
Mr Bird said hundreds of students greeted him, along with his wife Claire and dog Tiger, with banners and posters as he arrived at the Mayo school on Friday.
“It was amazing, I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It was unbelievable, hundreds of students were shouting and chanting my name, it was mad. The people here in Westport are just amazing. We’re connecting with people and this morning here was just amazing,” he said.
“It just blew me away. There was a huge banner outside with ‘Climb with Charlie’ on it and everything was done, they’ve been working on this for weeks and weeks.”
“For me it’s amazing, I have to say this, I have a terminal illness and yet the day here in Westport and Murrisk I’ve been lifted, lifted, lifted by young kids, hundreds of them and by their teachers and their parents.”
“I’m looking now at the window and written on banners is ‘We love Charlie’, ‘Welcome to Murrisk Charlie’.”
“Maybe tomorrow if the sun is shining, we might walk a little bit of Croagh Patrick,” he added.
Mr Bird is planning to climb ‘The Reek’ in aid of the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and Pieta House following his recent diagnosis with Motor Neurone Disease.
He wants to highlight the difficulties people face in their everyday lives due to severe illness.
Charlie’s story inspired teacher Nicole Gannon and her sixth-class pupils to write and sing a special song for Charlie to the tune of ’500 Miles’ by The Proclaimers.
Ms Gannon delivered footprints with inspirational messages from the students to Charlie when she performed as part of the Clew Bay Pipe Band on the Late Late Show on January 7.
Mr Bird added: “I want to thank the children and staff for their wonderful welcome today. The song written and sang by the sixth class and their teachers Nicole and Sean was amazing.”
“I want to encourage everyone to log on to www.climbwithcharlie.ie and donate what they can or set up their own fundraisers to climb mountains in their local area. Climb With Charlie is a nationwide initiative to recognize the huge physical and emotional mountains so many of us have to climb in our daily lives.’’
Sharon McGreal, a teacher at Scoil Phadraig, had the idea of reaching out to Charlie in advance of his climb.
‘’We are delighted to support Charlie - we love the way he is channelling his energy into encouraging the country to raise money for the two charities, it is a real inspiration,” she said.
“As a local school to Croagh Patrick we decided to walk the daily mile around our school every day until Charlie comes to Croagh Patrick in April. We are walking with him in spirit, and we are privileged to have him walk with us today.’’
Mr Bird arrived in Westport on Thursday and visited three schools on Friday, including St Colmcille’s National School and Murrisk National School.
For further details, see: www.climbwithcharlie.ie