De La Salle teacher Enda O’Doherty, who had trained for 10 arduous months, completed an epic walk between Belfast and Waterford on Sunday last, and received a rapturous and emotional welcome at a sun-kissed William Vincent Wallace Plaza.
The walk in itself was an arduous enough task in itself: that he completed it by carrying a 70lb (five stone) washing machine on his back, from start to finish makes what he has accomplished, in aid of Pieta House, all the more extraordinary.
“Every weekend since Christmas, every Saturday and Sunday for six or seven hours, I walked with so many of the people you see around me,” Enda told The Munster Express just outside Mullinavat, nine miles from the finish.
“That’s an unbelievable effort for me to put in, but everyone else too. It’s been an incredible experience. I mean I’ve a wife and three kids myself, and a lot of the time when I got home after a walk, all I did for much of that time was sleep and eat or get physio.
“As for the fundraising? I’m not 100 per sure what we’ve made but I think we’re in and around the €50,000 mark by now – we’ll do all the book keeping once we get home and get a bit of rest! The charity nights just kept coming one after the other after the other and there’s no way I’ll be able to thank everyone right now individually, but it’s just been the most incredible experience.”
Enda, as anyone who had checked his progress on his Facebook page throughout his eight day walk, never wanted anyone to lose sight of what had possessed him to carry a washing machine from one end of Ireland to the other.
“Pieta House is such an amazing charity. The work it does is difficult to fully quantify or to put a value on, and while I’ll be in Waterford soon enough, and a lot of people, naturally, would see that as the finish, it isn’t for me. This journey will have concluded when we have a Pieta House and a counselling service in our great city. Until we get to that destination, I won’t be happy, it’s as simple as that.”
Some of the experiences en route to Waterford kept Enda going, particularly during times when his body and mind was being pushed to the absolute limit.
“Last Wednesday, I was busking with the Irish soccer team in Malahide – even saying it sounds completely mad – but John O’Shea, a great man and a former De La Salle pupil of mine said to me, well, first of all he called me Mr O’Doherty rather than Enda because he’s a good De La Salle man, and he said to me ‘well, this must be better than last Wednesday?’ And I said no.”
As the passing car horns wailed in support, Enda explained: “The previous Wednesday, I was in the European Parliament! It’s amazing to think that with one good idea, with an obsessive amount of energy, enthusiasm and support that you can achieve things like this.
“I was sitting with Brian Hayes, Liadh Ní Riada and the other MEPs and telling them about our city, and how we had 5,000 people out on the streets of Waterford for Darkness Into Light, and how, one the same night, we had Waterford River Rescue, a fantastic service, who had to take (and save) two people from the river.
“I’m not a politician or an economist but people in Brussels and in Government need to know that when they cut mental health services, they’re cutting lives short, and there’s no debating that. And to think that we don’t have a Pieta House in Waterford city…young men in particular deserve another choice other than the one that so many have tragically taken. And hopefully all of this craziness will make many lives, in the long run, a great deal better. And what an experience this has been – but I’m looking forward to the end of this walk!” And my goodness did he enjoy it – as we all did. Well done, Enda. What a hero. (See next week’s edition for more on this extraordinary journey).