Irishman’s fundraising hike around England with a microwave inspired by his baby Oisín nearing target
By Damian Dolan
An Irishman who is hitchhiking his way around England carrying only a microwave to raise funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities has nearly reached his target figure.
Diarmuid McCleary’s trek was inspired by his baby cousin Oisín – the son of Robert Emmetts hurling club assistant manager Mark Traynor and his wife Seanin, a former treasurer of the club.
Oisín was born prematurely on 27 May last year at Kings College Hospital at just 25 weeks old and weighing 950gs. He spent the first six months of his life in hospital under constant care.
Ronald McDonald House in Camberwell came to the families aid – offering them a place to stay for free close to the hospital.
Diarmuid has so far raised £1,700 of his £2,000 target.
Diarmuid, who is from Co Monaghan, landed in Liverpool on 16 March before making his way south to London, via Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Milton Keynes and Cambridge.
He’s been travelling without money and has instead been totally reliant on the kindness and generosity of strangers for food, transport and accommodation.
His travels also took him to Ronald McDonald House in Camberwell, where he spent the day speaking with some of the families living there.
“It was really good, but really sad at the same time,” Diarmuid told the Irish World.
“One woman had to drive three and a half hours to get to the hospital and then she’d have to drive home. Staying over was too expensive and they can’t work because they’ve got a sick child, so the charity was able to help them.
“Another woman said that the staff at the charity are more like your friends. I remember another woman said ‘the house is just a building, it’s the staff who make it a home’.”
Since arriving in London he’s also tried his hand at street art, visited the London Irish Centre in Camden, took in the Brexit protest march and stopped by Buckingham Palace and Downing Street.
He even managed to get down to McGovern Park, Ruislip – the home of the GAA in London.
Just like his previous charity hikes around Ireland and Scotland, Diarmuid’s been touched by people’s generosity.
“The people I’ve stayed with have all been really nice,” said Diarmuid.
“I’ve stayed with a guy who drove a black London cab to Mongolia, people who’ve spent the last year driving around the world and a few students. I’ve also met with families who’ve been affected by having a sick child.
“A few days ago someone donated a hundred pounds and sent me a message saying I was welcome to stay at their house. So I did.
“I also stayed with a South African woman in Milton Keynes who was just really lonely. She put an advert on Couch-Surfer because she was just sick of being alone, and I was her first guest. That was really nice.”
He says the numerous interviews he’s been doing with Irish radio stations have helped him find accommodation along the way, as has social media, with his followers on Facebook and Instagram tracking his journey with interest.
He added: “London has been mad – the city is enormous. It was taking me hours to walk places because I didn’t have any money on my Oyster Card. But random a woman topped it with £10 online.”
After London he’ll embark on an “implosive diversion” to hitchhike his way to Paris – Diarmuid accepting the challenge of getting a photo with his microwave at the Eiffel Tower.
Then it will be back home to Monaghan.
He said: “If I can get to Paris I’ll be able to raise a good bit of money for charity. I’ve been doing a lot of radio interviews and they keep asking me about Paris, so I just thought ‘right, I’ve got to try and get to Paris now’.
“I’ve no idea how, but we’ll see what happens.”
Some of the issues Oisín faced were Chronic lung disease, Renal failure, hypertension, sepsis several times and he was on antibiotics for over 100 days. He also needed multiple blood transfusions and over 31 surgical procedures.
With Kings College Hospital nearly two hours away from Mark and Seanin’s home in Harrow, Ronald McDonald House in Camberwell were able to provide them with free ‘home away from home’ accommodation.
Seanin described it as a “home from home” and said the family would have “been lost without it”.
She said: “Having the chance to stay and spend more time with Oisín was unbelievable and we will forever be grateful for it.
“We probably would of ended up renting something locally as Oisín was so unwell we just didn’t want to leave it. We were told several times he wouldn’t make it – it was a long and very tough road.
One man and his microwave: Irishman’s fundraising hike around England with a microwave inspired by his baby cousin Oisín @RMHCUK @R_EmmettsLondon @LondainGAA @ditsu_events https://t.co/xZgwuNVC2p pic.twitter.com/XUv1LeiTNb
— the Irish World (@theirishworld) March 20, 2019
“We spent very little time in the house over the first few weeks, apart from 3-4 hours a day to sleep, but it was great knowing we had somewhere when needed.”
Over the last 30 years Ronald McDonald House has helped tens of thousands of families (8,000 families each year) during some of the toughest periods in their lives.
The charity supports families while their child receives care and treatment in a specialist children’s hospital by giving them a warm and welcoming place to rest their heads, just a moment away from their child.
There are currently 14 Ronald McDonald Houses across the UK. Its dedicated teams of staff and volunteers welcome families to stay for days, weeks and even years.
To donate go to www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/babyoisin