Belfast Telegraph

Walker home in Northern Ireland after 2,500km trek for dementia awareness

By Eamon Sweeney

A Northern Ireland man who last night completed a 2,500km trek across Europe to raise awareness about dementia has said his three-month journey has made him even more aware how widespread the illness actually is.

Eamonn Donnelly arrived to a tremendous welcome in his native Keady in Co Armagh having walked from his adopted home in Graz in Austria to raise awareness and funds to combat the condition that claimed the life of his 71-year-old mother Margaret in April.

His travels have taken him through Germany, France, England, Wales and Ireland in a distance that is the equivalent of 60 marathons. Accompanied for a great proportion of the journey by his friend Sepp Tieber-Kessler, they dubbed the mammoth walk 'The Long Walk Home'.

Eamonn told the Belfast Telegraph: "What stood out for me most were the people that I met. Walking of course is the slowest, the original form of transport, so you do get talking to a lot of people en route. I found people were enthused by what we were doing. Some people even said they were inspired by it."

The Co Armagh man has lived in Austria for almost 30 years and not only celebrated his 50th birthday whilst on the road but will have the happy experience of meeting his first grandchild on his return.

However he conceded the trek has been at times arduous. He said: "There were times in countries like France where the villages were deserted and it was hard to understand what I was doing it for because my legs were sore and I was alone. But, when I met up with people who encouraged me it became worthwhile again."

On arrival in Keady yesterday, Eamonn was greeted by the Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Gareth Wilson, who said: "His journey has required tremendous commitment and motivation whilst raising awareness of dementia and it's very fitting that his journey had ended in his hometown."

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