Hospice heroes share secret to sixty successful years of marriage

Categories: People & Places.

They were happy to share, when quizzed, the secret to a successful marriage when they were presented with their “Hospice Sunflower Hero” awards by RTE’s Mary Kennedy at Dublin’s Mansion House..

Mary, 79 said: “Don’t keep secrets from each other. We don’t keep secrets from each other. We get on very well together”

Sean who will be 93 on his next birthday said: “Honesty in everything you do and say, is very important. Honesty is a big part of it.”

Originally from Nenagh, Co Tipperary the couple now live in Blackrock in Dublin. They were nominated for Hospice Sunflower Hero awards by Our Lady’s Hospice and Care Services, Dublin for being “dedicated, hardworking and wonderful ambassadors” for the Hospice.

They have raised almost €20,000 for the annual Sunflower Fundraising Campaign since they got involved 16 years ago.

Mary said: “We only live once so it’s important to do as much as you can in that time.” As well as his dedication to the hospice Sean still gets time to play ten holes of golf on a regular basis.

Mary Kennedy paid tribute to all of the Hospice Sunflower Heroes that attended the award ceremony. 

She said: “I never had direct involvement with hospice. My mother died of cancer. She never actually made it to the hospice but she was cared for in Tallaght Hospital by people who were just so kind, so loving and so respectful that it felt like the whole ethos of hospice was there.” 

Mary Kennedy spent time filming at Our Lady’s Hospice last year as part of her work for RTE’s Nationwide.

“All of the staff that we spoke to and all of the volunteers and the clients – the people who were in the hospice – just exuded this feeling of dignity and gentleness and compassion and respect. It was was lovely environment, it was very peaceful, very tranquil and we had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs,” she said.

Among the other award recipients were pals, Kay O’Donoghue, Maura Ryan and Noilin Ryan who have managed to raise in excess of half a million euros for North Tipperary Hospice over the past fifteen years.

Kay from Nenagh, Co Tipperary persuaded her friends to get behind the Hospice.  They initially organised a barbecue to raise funds but now hold an annual dinner and auction for the Hospice.

Mabel E Harris was nominated for her award by the The Friends of St Brigid’s Hospice. She is so dedicated that she has given up a room in her own home to fundraising. Mabel from Clane, Co Kildare has been involved in the hospice for more than 25 years and has served for ten years on its executive committee. She was a founding member of the Hospice’s support group. She hosts coffee mornings and gets fully behind the organisation of Sunflower Days.  Supplies for fundraising for the hospice including sunflowers, posters and t-shirts are stored in a spare room in her home.

The awards were presented in advance of national Hospice Sunflower Days which celebrates its 26th anniversary this year and takes place on Friday, June 10th and Saturday, June 11th.

This is one of the biggest annual fundraisers for the hospice movement in Ireland and it is hoped that €1 million will be raised. The event is coordinated on behalf of the hospice movement by the Irish Hospice Foundation and all of the funds raised locally, stay locally.

People are being encouraged to support their local hospice service on June 10th and 11th by purchasing various pieces of Sunflower merchandise – including sunflower pins for €2 each from collectors on the streets of cities, towns and villages across Ireland. 

A recent national survey commissioned by the Irish Hospice Foundation revealed that 75% of Irish people want to die at home – however only 25% will get to do so partly due to lack of services.

Mary Kennedy said: “More than 6,000 people use hospice services every year in Ireland. The care and support afforded to families in need, at a very difficult time, is so important and I am encouraging members of the public to show their support for Sunflower Days once again this year. By simply buying a sunflower from one of our volunteers you are helping to bring comfort and dignity to people at the end-of-life.”

She added: “It’s inspiring to meet the “Sunflower Heroes” and the dedicated volunteers from across the country who do so much to secure hospice services locally. Without them there are many patients and their families whose end of life would be so much harder. They are all heroes in the true sense and need to be acknowledged. I am honoured to be here with them today.”

Irish Hospice Foundation chief executive Sharon Foley said all volunteers are the backbone of the hospice movement in Ireland.

“It is through the compassionate communities that hospice services can continue to deliver high quality care to individuals and families.  No hospice service is fully funded by the State and they are all reliant on their communities and public goodwill to help maintain or expand their services.  I think that is something really exceptional about an event like Hospice Sunflower Days,’ she said.

Pat Quinlan Chair of the Voluntary Hospices Group, said:  “Hospice care aims to improve the lives of people who have a life limiting condition by helping them to live their lives as fully as possible right up to the moment until they die. Across the country, the number of people seeking hospice care services continues to increase and we need to be in a position to be able to respond to meeting their needs. Therefore, Hospices across the country are more reliant now than ever on the generosity and goodwill or our wonderful supporters and volunteers.


“We appeal to people to support their local service so patients and families can get help at a time of greatest need.  Sunflower Days is a vital source of funding for local hospice services so please donate on June 10th & 11th and if you have a few hours to spare please consider volunteering.”

Sunflower Days takes place in Cork on Friday, June 3rd and Saturday, June 4th.

For more information and to volunteer with your local hospice service for Hospice Sunflower Days visit www.sunflowerdays.ie 

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