Home News Jack O’Keefe raises £3,800 whilst running a Belgium marathon in memory of his mum

20 Nov 2023 Community

Jack O’Keefe raises £3,800 whilst running a Belgium marathon in memory of his mum

The Kirkwood are proud of the people that fundraise for us and the fact they take on all manner of challenges, to not only raise funds for us, but also spread the name of The Kirkwood and the work we do in the community. 

One person who has recently fundraised for us is Jack O’Keefe who has raised a fantastic £3,800 for us by completing a marathon in Belgium earlier this year.

Jack, 25, is aware of the good work we do as he lived just around the corner from our site in Dalton. Jack went to school locally and was keenly aware from a young age of the care we provide people in the community. 

Now living in London, Jack visits Dalton on occasions to see family. He visited Dalton a lot last year and early this year when his mum Gillian was diagnosed with Stage 4 oesophageal cancer. 

On the initial shock of the diagnosis in February 2022, Jack said: “In terms of when The Kirkwood came into our lives it was in early 2022 when my mum received the news of her diagnosis. She was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, which came out of the blue. It was a huge shock for all of my family and something I will never forget.

“She was put in contact with The Kirkwood and I think that really helped her and all my family to process what was going on, what the next steps were and what we needed to do.”

Jack believes the relationship The Kirkwood staff had with his mum and his family helped them through the entire process. 

He said: “I am very much aware of the work The Kirkwood does in the community. Growing up in Dalton, The Kirkwood was very much on my doorstep. I think The Kirkwood has always been quite present in my life in one way or another and it has always been one of those causes that we have fundraised for. 

“The Kirkwood helped us to know how to respond to other people around my mum when they were trying to support her. That was something that she really struggled with initially. She didn’t know how to frame her illness to other people. 

“So, I think once that relationship with The Kirkwood was established, I know it certainly alleviated a lot of the pressure that was put on herself and my dad primarily.

“I think that relationship became even more important as the illness developed over weeks and months. It really provided an outlet for her more than anything, to just step outside the house and, even when she couldn’t do that, it was a phone call which gave her someone else to speak with.”

Gillian died on the 22nd February at home surrounded by loved ones. In June this year, Jack decided to raise funds for The Kirkwood in her memory, and launched a fundraiser for the Bruges Marathon in October. 

On why he wanted to raise the funds and how he did it, he commented: “I felt like it was the right time to really push myself towards something and to achieve something significant.” 

“I am a runner anyway, so it felt natural for me to do the marathon. It's the first organised event I've run in and it felt good. In terms of doing it in Belgium, I went to Bruges with my dad and my half-sister Robyn. I really wanted it to do something special that we did together as a family after what had been probably the most challenging year of all of our lives. They both offered me incredible support on this fundraising journey and I wanted to give them a huge thanks.

“It's amazing to know that I raised £3,845, I'm delighted with that amount. My initial target was only £1,000 so to go way beyond that is just brilliant.” 

As well as the running, in September Jack also organised a special, northern-tribute meal in London for a number of friends, which also raised funds for The Kirkwood.

On the event, Jack commented: “Myself and a friend of mine who used to cook professionally put on a fundraising dinner for The Kirkwood, which was based in her garden in London. We designed a menu that was northern themed as a tribute to my mum, but we put a gourmet twist on it. We invited 24 people, and everyone paid a donation fee which went straight to the Hospice. On the night we raised £342, which went towards the final total. 

“We created a completely bespoke creative menu that was all about the north of England – we even had a dessert that was Yorkshire pudding with Yorkshire Tea ice cream. 

“It was a really special way to bring people together to help celebrate my mum's life, whilst doing something creative and fun that I’m sure she’d have loved.

“My final wish for this fundraising journey is to thank everyone who donated to my page - it's incredible to think how many people contributed. I'm so grateful to everyone at The Kirkwood and I'm really proud of what I have achieved.” 

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