€1million target in sight after an incredible day
Enniscorthy was transformed into a sea of purple and gold from early on Sunday morning as over 2,000 walkers, joggers and runners arrived in their special t-shirts for this year's Hope & Dream 10.
What started out as a small idea for a fundraiser seven years ago with a goal of €5,000, has grown into an absolute monster of community spirit and is rapidly closing in on the €1million mark. R
ace Director Michael Jordan says that he is absolutely over the moon with how this year's event went, describing it as one of the best yet with numbers well up on last year.
'The feedback has been just fantastic,' he said. 'We had a total of 2,264 people registered and the vast majority of those would have taken part on the day. We're up at very least 100 people on last year which is astonishing. It can be hard to sustain such numbers, but thankfully we seem to be seeing an upward trajectory still. In terms of the money side of things, I would be quietly confident that we are on target to hit the million euro mark after 7 years. We've lodged €123,000 already and it will take a considerable period of time for all of the money to come back, but I'd be hopeful that we might just make that €1million mark this year, which is not bad going considering it was initially organised as a one-off event to raise €5,000 or so.'
As always, the atmosphere on the Promenade on Sunday was absolutely electric. What really added to it, however, was the weather and the purple and gold t-shirts were bathed in glorious sunshine as participants were well and truly warmed up in hilarious fashion by MC Liam Sharkey at the start line. People exchanged hints and tips for lasting the distance from hardened elite runners to glamorous granny's out for a stroll in the fine weather, really adding to the sense of occasion.
The sense of community was palpable as everyone had their own reason for taking part. One woman's mother had signed up for the race and began collecting money before she passed away and she was there to finish what her late mam had started.
'That's the special thing,' said Michael. 'Everyone has their own reason for doing it and for some it can be quite emotional. I know of one woman who lost her husband in the past year and I was able to pick her out coming back in and gave her a big hug as she came over the line. Another whole family had lost their sister and did it in her memory. There are a lot of untold stories from the Hope & Dream too.'
The amount of work put in by volunteers over the course of the weekend was also outstanding. Michael estimates that around 200 volunteers gave their time freely, from collecting money and handing out sponsorship packs in The Presentation Centre, to getting out at 5 a.m. on the route and putting out barriers etc.
'We had over 200 volunteers,' said Michael. '80 marshals, the Red Cross, Slaney Search & Rescue, the Gardaí, the lads on the motorbikes...the list goes on. We had a small army of people.
'We always get new faces getting involved every year, but a lot of the people that are there have been there since day one helping out. I couldn't ask for a better team. Without wanting to single anyone out, this whole thing could never happen with Denise (McDonald, The Hope Centre).
'There's a lot of work that can only be done by one person and she's there to do it. Everything goes through her and there's no way everything could run as smoothly and efficiently without her.'
Out on the route, participants were greeted by cheers and words of encouragement from marshals and members of the public as they passed. Signs placed outside people's homes on the route bore words of encouragement. On one of the particularly tough hills, a small group of children stood at the side of the road with a tub of biscuits to give runners that little extra bit of energy to get to the top. These are all small indications of just how much of a community event this has become. It's not just for the participants. It's for everyone.
'I think the people of Enniscorthy and County Wexford can be very, very proud of themselves for how they support this event,' said Michael. 'I think the causes tend to be right and people love how all of the money raised stays local. All of the expenses are paid for in advance of the race so every single cent raised goes to the charities and everything is independently audited. People can take a lot of confidence from that.'
In terms of the charities, it is well documented the amazing work that the Hope Cancer Support Centre and Wexford Hospice Homecare do with little or no financial backing. This year they were also joined by Friends of Wexford General Hospital's MRI Now campaign - something which will have positive implications for every family in county Wexford.
As the money continues to pour in, it's hard to emphasise enough just how much it will mean to these causes. Michael and his team are extremely grateful to every single person who volunteered, donated, took part, cheered on the runners and did anything at all to contribute to the event's continued success.
While the €1million looks to be well in sight, they're not stopping there. Regardless of what the final tally is, the same faces will return to the Promenade once again next year on April 7, rain, hail or shine to do it all over again.