On Monday night 17th December the Friends of St. Ita’s got together with a group of their many fundraisers to celebrate the festive season. This is our regular end of year Christmas get-together explained Chairman, Fergus Scanlan who went on to say that the occasion also marked the presentation of a number of very generous cheques from the various fundraising events since our last get-together in September and as reported on in our press release in the Weekly Observer at the time. As ever the evening was another most enjoyable occasion with the guests, who numbered over 40, being treated to all kinds of delicious food prepared and served by the wonderful kitchen staff headed up by chef Eddie O’Connell. Eddie and his staff (on the night) Breda Muckell, Bridget Copse and Siobhán Lane are to be highly complimented for their efficiency and the courteous manner in which they looked after the guests, in-keeping with their usual very high standards, I might add. I should also say, the staff on these occasions give their services free and very kindly stay back in their own time to look after the guests and serve the food and so, needless to say, we are most grateful to them for this very kind and spirited gesture.

In relation to our fundraising campaign, now in its 10th year, and with a total in excess of €3.3 million raised to date, I am delighted to say we continue to make great progress despite the financial hardship which continues to beset our economy and sadly, the lives of so many people. And so, we are therefore, more grateful than ever for this truly wonderful support. And of course, it is that phenomenal support and generosity that has enabled us finance many of the major improvements that have taken place here at St. Ita’s over the years which, needless to say, are all for the betterment of the care and comfort of the patients from the community who are resident here and indeed, who are more deserving than they! Regarding our fundraising, we had the following very successful events since our last press release in September. Over the August Bank Holiday weekend we had a bed push fund raiser in Askeaton organised by Jessica Ryan, Diane Maune and others who raised the very generous sum of €4,125 which was divided between the Jack & Jill Foundation and the friends and for which we say a very big thank you. In September we had a white-collar boxing fund raiser in Feenagh organised by Marian O’Sullivan, The Village Inn, Feenagh, and others and they raised a very generous €2,101 for the Friends and for which we likewise say a very sincere thank you. In October we had a team of 31 great ladies who took part in the Limerick Women’s Mini Marathon and raised the hugely generous sum of €11,105. This was a fantastic achievement given the current financial climate and these kind ladies are deserving of our highest praise with two in particular meriting special mention, Frances Kelly, Tim’s Shoe Shop, Newcastle West, and Lucy Geoghegan, Templeglantine, who between them raised €3,135 which is truly fantastic and almost matching similar amounts raised by these two great ladies from the last two Limerick womens mini marathons. I should say the women’s mini marathon is our main fundraising event each year which together with other sponsored walks has raised over €253,000 to date and so our most grateful thanks once again to all of these wonderful people and to all who sponsored them so generously.

In November the Friends and the Newcastle West Agricultural Show committee ran our annual fashion show for the 6th year which once again was a great success and raised in excess of €4,000 (after expenses) which was divided between the two organisations. In December ‘Santa in his Sleigh’ was on his rounds through towns and villages in West Limerick for the 5th year and raised the very generous sum of €7,683, bringing the total to date to over €30K. This is truly marvellous considering the time of year and having to battle with the elements which are often none too kind and indeed were quite hazardous on two of those years, and so all the more credit to the great team involved in organising and running the event, with full marks in particular to Lucia and Stephen Riordan (the main organisers). To Santa who was truly fantastic again this year and to all of the collectors who did Trojan work. To Moroney Engineering Ltd., for the upkeep of the sleigh. To the sponsors, Shakeel (Glen Grub), Roches, Shanagolden, C & M Training, Adams of Glin and Athea Credit Union, all of whom sponsored so generously again this year, and to all a most sincere and heartfelt thanks for all your very hard work, time and effort in bringing this annual event to yet another very successful conclusion. In relation to our €1.2 million plus new rehab project as previously reported on in the Weekly Observer, we are delighted to say Planning Permission (having been delayed for almost 8 weeks) has now been granted clearing the way to proceed to tender stage with an expected construction start-up date by February next and completion by end of 2013. This is a capital only project with no revenue implications as the existing staff will run the unit. As previously stated, this development (which is being fully funded from voluntary fundraising) will be of tremendous benefit to the community and J.P. McManus is the man we can thank in the main for this, through his funding of €¾ million towards the project. Finally, the Friends of St. Ita’s take this opportunity to say a very sincere thank you to our many wonderful supporters for their very kind and generous support throughout the year and, indeed, over these past 10 years, thus helping us to continue to improve the quality of life for the patients here in St. Ita’s. And as the Friends this always has, and will continue to be, the main objective of our fundraising campaign. And in that regard I am delighted to say we are both blessed and extremely proud to have on our team one absolutely brilliant fundraiser in the person of Josie Ahern, our assistant treasurer, who, over the years has raised more than €35K for our fund. And, indeed, apart from the Friends of St. Ita’s and going back for many, many years before, Josie has been involved in countless other charitable activities which very recently, finally, earned for her the recognition she so richly deserved in the form of the much coveted IFA ‘Paddy Fitzgerald Memorial Award’ (already well publicised in both national and local press and radio) and so our warmest congratulations to Josie and no one more deserving say one-and-all. Also a very special word of thanks to our great friends John Joe Nash, Nora O’Keeffe, Mary Ita Curtin and Ann Broderick who have been doing Trojan work for us from day one and for which we are eternally grateful. We likewise thank the staff of the Weekly Observer for all their very kind support over the years in helping to keep the spotlight on the progress of our fundraising endeavours through the pages of the Weekly Observer and for that we are sincerely grateful. Also a very sincere thanks to Maurice Cremin for so kindly doing the photo-shoot on the night. Lastly, on behalf of the Friends and Management and Staff here at St. Ita’s we wish one and all a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year – Le cúnamh Dé.