Belfast Telegraph

Armagh man in 1,500-mile charity trek across Europe in memory of his 'amazing' mum

By Adrian Rutherford

A Northern Ireland man is undertaking a 1,500-mile trek across Europe to raise funds for dementia research.

Eamonn Donnelly, originally from Keady, Co Armagh, and Sepp Tieber, from Graz in Austria, are walking from Hitzendorf in Austria to Keady.

The expedition, entitled The Long Walk Home, is inspired by the life of Eamonn's mother Margaret. She died in April 2014 at the age of 71, having suffered from dementia.

While Armagh is still the place Eamonn calls home, he has been based in Austria since 1990, where he lives with his wife and three children and is a singer with Irish band Boxty.

"Several years ago my mum passed away after suffering from a rare and aggressive form of dementia," he said.

"There were many sad moments during mum's illness and there have been many sad moments since her death. But we can deal with the sadness and grief as we are a strong family and support each other.

"One feeling though stands out as particularly frustrating, the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness - that nothing could be done to alleviate the symptoms or slow down the progression of the disease let alone cure it ... nothing.

"I believe strongly that this needs to change and more needs to be done to find answers to even the most fundamental questions surrounding this disease.

"Although, as things stand, a cure seems to be a distant dream, we need at least to be exploring paths to eventually reach it.

"The Long Walk Home is a very small step along the way to doing just that, while also honouring the life of an amazing woman."

Eamonn and Sepp have been friends for over 25 years and joined with other friends to form Boxty, an Irish music band which plays all over Austria and further afield.

Together they came up with the idea of this expedition and have been planning and training for it over many months.

The trip will see them trekking, climbing and camping all the way home in a journey crossing Austria, Germany, France, England and Wales before arriving in Ireland.

As music continues to play such a central role in the men's lives, they also hope to play some impromptu gigs along the way.

They set off from Hitzendorf near Graz earlier this week and are aiming to arrive in Keady at the beginning of September.

Their challenge can be tracked through their blog and on social media and the pair hope to inspire people to donate to the worthy cause.

All the money raised will go to support dementia research, including supporting the work of the Alzheimer's Society, w hich had supported Eamonn's mother and family through her illness.

For more information and to donate visit: thelongwalkhome.wixsite.com/thelongwalkhome

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