The Friends of St. Ita’s Hospital and fellow fundraisers recently gathered together in St. Ita’s to celebrate John Joe Nash’s 80th birthday where he was presented with a beautiful Waterford Crystal clock to mark this very special occasion. And, in the words of Chairman Fergus Scanlan, as a token of appreciation of The Friends for the enormous support he has given them over the years in raising close on €30,000 towards their ongoing campaign for the improvement of services and conditions for the patients at St. Ita’s. This is truly a phenomenal achievement by any standard but said Fergus, it is also a measure of the huge regard, respect and support which John Joe commands amongst his very wide circle of friends and neighbours who have continued to rally their very fulsome help and support behind all of his fundraising ventures and ultimately the key to his many outstanding successes. These include three very successful local sponsored walks and a number of table quizzes, all involving a huge amount of hard work and commitment, not to mention all the foot slogging, but above all his unwavering determination and enthusiasm to achieve his goal. And so the Friends and indeed, management and staff at St. Ita’s are hugely indebted to John Joe who has been a source of inspiration to all of us and indeed, that selfless and tireless commitment in his ongoing quest over many years towards the cause of good and wellbeing of those less fortunate in our community has very much served to motivate us in our own likeminded fundraising endeavours. It should also be mentioned John Joe’s birthday celebrations at St. Ita’s was only the precursor to his main birthday celebration at his home in Coolyroe on 16th September, marking the actual date of his newly acquired status of octogenarian. The event was attended by a big number of John Joe’s many friends, neighbours and relations and opened with the celebration of a thanksgiving Mass by Fr. John Duggan, local P.P. and very good friend of John Joe. This was followed by a veritable feast with all sorts of delicious foods, cakes and pastries being served with a sumptuous birthday cake forming the centrepiece, baked by the fair hands of our own Josie Ahern of the Friends (another very good friend of John Joe’s). From there the party continued into the wee hours of the morning with lots of dancing and singing and a great night being had by all. Apart from John Joe’s birthday celebrations at St. Ita’s the occasion also marked another of the Friends’ regular get-togethers with their fundraising friends. And on the night these included the following groups and individuals involved in fundraising for the Friends since our last get-together in December 2012. Starting in December Dermot and Mary Giltenane, D&M Garden Centre and Restaurant, Croagh ran a cookery demonstration and raised €520. In January we were presented with a cheque for €932 by Richard Langford (sadly recently deceased R.I.P.), former President of Rathkeale Bridge Club from an earlier charity night. In March Tony and Mary Roche, The Old Stand Restaurant, Shanagolden ran a St. Patrick’s weekend and raised €1,200. In April we were one of eleven charities to received a cheque for €1,000 from the staff of Andersen Ireland Jewellery Factory, Rathkeale from their earlier local jewellery sale. In July the Kantoher Co-op Reunion Committee gave us a donation of €500 from an earlier reunion event. Finally in August the Lynch’s Gang, Syndicate, Newcastle West made a donation of €500, which was prize money they had earlier won in the donkey derby race at the Newcastle West Agricultural Show in which their donkey Lynch’s Gang won 1st prize. As ever the Friends would like to say a very sincere thank you to all of these great people and the very many more for their ongoing very generous support. The get-together was another huge success and greatly enjoyed by all in the very capable hands of the kitchen staff (consisting of Breda Muckell, Bridget Copse and Joan Larkin) who looked after the guests in their usual very courteous and professional style as they served the mouth-watering food laid on by chef Eddie O’Connell, including a beautiful birthday cake for John Joe. In conclusion the Friends would like to report our new €1.7 million rehab development (dealt with at length in previous press releases) is finally due to go to construction in the coming weeks with completion expected by the end of 2014, marking the realisation of another major and very worthwhile initiative for St. Ita’s and the patients from this community who will be availing of same. And all thanks to the wonderful generosity of the people of west Limerick, in particular the great J.P. McManus to whom we will be forever grateful. Lastly the Friends send their very best wishes and prayers to our great friend Nora O’Keeffe, Ballingarry for a speedy recovery following her regent surgery. As ever we finish with a very grateful thanks to the staff at the Weekly Observer for their ongoing very positive support and for being so very accommodating in publishing our many cheque presentation photographs etc, Needless to say, it is hugely appreciated.