By Damian Dolan
London’s newest Gaelic Football Club, Wandsworth Gaels, have made a winning start to life in London GAA by opting to publicise a charity on the front of their playing jersey.
Rather than bearing the name of a sponsor on the front of the playing shirt, as is the norm, Wandsworth Gaels, who were ratified at last month’s county board meeting, will instead carry the logo of ‘the Donal Walsh #Livelife Foundation‘.
The Kerry teenager passed away in 2013 at the age of 16 after battling cancer for several years and raising tens of thousands for charity, and raising awareness of teen suicide through his writings.
Wandsworth Gaels had been considering several charities until one of its members circulated Donal’s interview with Brendan O’Connor on The Late Late Show via the team’s WhatsApp group.
“After watching it there wasn’t much of a decision to be made,” Wandsworth Gaels PRO Declan Meehan told the Irish World. “It was pretty powerful stuff; he probably only had weeks to live at that point.
“He was only 16 and to hear what he’d been through got everyone sitting up straight away.
“We want to bring something positive to London GAA and to be linked with a charity. We want to create a good vibe – it’s just not about winning about all costs.”
A keen Gaelic footballer, Donal’s story and writings moved the country. Diagnosed with Osteo Sarcoma (bone cancer) in his tibia at the age of 12 he underwent chemotherapy and a knee replacement, but returned to coach at his local GAA club, Kerins O’Rahilly’s in Co Kerry.
In February 2012 the cancer returned, this time on his lung. Donal again had to go under the knife to have half of his lung removed and endured another round of chemotherapy treatment.
To increase his lung capacity as part of his rehabilitation, he took up cycling and undertook regular trips of up to 60 kilometres.
Despite this, he continued to fundraise. He raised over €50,000 for St. John’s Cancer Ward in Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin.
After the cancer returned for a third time in October 2012, Donal began writing about his battle with cancer, teenage suicide and ‘Climbing God’s Mountains’.
An article he wrote entitled ‘Suicide Plea’ was published and led to an interview on The Saturday Night Show with Brendan O’Connor, which brought him to national and international prominence. His writings were subsequently published in the Sunday Independent.
Donal passed away on 12th May 2013.
“He just did stuff that he wasn’t supposed to be doing. He raised so much money for cancer and hospices,” added Declan.
“He didn’t lie down, he became an underage coach at his club, but then got another cancer. He got over that and cycled the Ring of Kerry. He had a live life, anti-suicide message.
“It’s a charity which definitely doesn’t get as much recognition as some other charities, so we thought ‘we have to go with this’ and give it a bit of publicity.
The Donal Walsh #Livelife Foundation set up by his family primarily in order to promote his anti-suicide #Livelife message.
The foundation also assists in providing age appropriate teenage facilities in hospital and hospice care centers.
Wandsworth Gaels plan to hold a fundraising weekend for the charity during the year.