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Air ambulance set to return to full-time operational rota

Virtual fundraising efforts throw a 'huge lifeline' to cash-strapped life-saving service

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Air ambulance

Air ambulance

Air ambulance

Just a few short weeks ago the future looked decidedly bleak for Ireland's first charity-led air ambulance, with the operators of the Rathcoole-based service starkly warning that a lack funding threatened to ground the service.

While the service, which has flown more than 380 missions since going live last July, did manage to remain airborne by implementing sweeping cost-cutting measures and reducing weekly operational times to five days, doubts clouded its future as dwindling funds ran dangerously low.

Its financial woes were exacerbated by the imposition of COVID-19-related restrictions, forcing the cancellation of fundraising events.

However, in similar fashion to the drive to get the service operational in the first place, the public has responded to appeals and, through a combination of donations and virtual fund-raisers, helped secure the funding needed ensure the service will resume full-time operations from next month.

Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR) operations manager Ruth Bruton said the return to seven-day operations had remained a key priority for the service.

"We are thrilled to finally see this critically needed air ambulance be where it should be - in the air when we need it most," said Ms Bruton.

She said that innovative fundraising ideas such as 'Duhallow's Fittest Club', which pitted 23 North Cork GAA clubs against each other in a bid to raise funds for causes including ICRR, had thrown the charity a "huge lifeline".

Thus far, its GoFundMe page has raised more than €35,000, with Ballydesmond and Kiskeam set to go head-to-head on Saturday for the title.

Event organiser Sean Linehan said they chose to support the air ambulance as it is a vital service.

"Not just for the Duhallow area, but the entire Munster region. Participants were delighted to get some fun exercise in whilst also help raise vital funds. Some age-old rivalries also surfaced of course, but it was all very much well natured," he joked.

Ms Bruton described the efforts of individuals and groups to raise the money needed to keep the service operational as "overwhelming and uplifting."

"From myself and all the ICRR crew, we are so grateful for the outpouring of support and donations from people across Ireland; we sincerely thank each and every person who answered our call. The online community spirit, by way of donations and showing support with beautifully drawn pictures being posted to our crews, has made this difficult time an easier journey," said Ms Bruton.

"However, the ongoing challenge of keeping it there is our priority and continued support from those than can give is vital. Every mission counts, so every donation counts too."

Corkman