Well-known local woman Marie Cummins reflects on her many years of fundraising for various causes after her recent decision to step back from fundraising activities
Marie Cummins recently announced that she was stepping back from fundraising activities for family reasons.Although Marie had already stepped back from her many activities with Waterford Hospice, she had still been fundraising in the locality for other causes. “I really enjoy it, but it isn’t possible for me to give the time that’s needed to do the fundraising,” she said when explaining her decision. “I am very emotional when I think about it. I already miss it – I will miss the people and the company.”She is grateful that she has had good health to be able to fundraise for so long. “You get a good feeling when you go out and do something,” she said.“It’s nice to give back and it was great to have the health to be able to do it. That’s important – to get up and feel you have the health to do it.”
Marie has been intrinsically linked with Waterford Hospice and, for many people in Waterford and South Kilkenny, she has been the face of the movement locally. Marie’s involvement with Waterford Hospice began in the late 1980s through Denise Hughes who was the first Waterford Hospice nurse. At that time, Marie, who was heavily involved in set dancing and Slieverue ICA, decided to set about fundraising for Waterford Hospice. It was later suggested that Marie establish a Hospice support group in Slieverue which she duly did.
“We had fashion shows, dancing, coffee mornings, table quizzes – we raised money in any way we could,” she explained. Marie helped establish similar groups throughout Waterford and South Kilkenny and has been central to fundraising campaigns for Waterford Hospice down through the years. She says there was always great goodwill shown to all of their fundraising endeavours. “The support from the very start was unbelievable. You only had to mention the Hospice. We never had any bother getting money,” she explained. Some well-known standalone Waterford Hospice events were the popular Ball Run on Patrick’s Street in the city, the Midsummer Ball at The Woodlands Hotel; the Walk to Remember at Kilbarry Eco Park; and The Munster Express Fun Run.
“We tried to make the events fun and give something back to people,” Marie explained.
“When you run an event and it’s successful, it gives you a huge lift.” Waterford Hospice has benefitted from many generous donations from local factories and businesses and has also received funds from major local events such as the Sean Kelly Tour of Waterford; the Waterford Truck and Motor Show; the Mayor’s Ball; and the popular barbeque at Gardenmorris, Kill. Waterford Rotary Club has raised over half a million euro for Waterford Hospice through fundraisers such as the poignant Christmas Memorial Tree which has become an integral part of Christmas in Waterford.
Marie was also to the forefront for other Hospice related fundraisers, such as sales of Christmas cards or Sunflower Day each June. Marie says the kindness of strangers towards Waterford Hospice has been very much evident throughout the past 30 years.She was regularly approached by people on the street with donations and recalls an envelope being left into Ferrybank Post Office on a regular basis which was marked for her attention.
“Every few weeks there could be €200 in that envelope,” she explained.
“That person must have passed away as eventually it stopped. It was huge for me to get that into my hands. It’s nice to be treated with that respect and honesty.”
She added: “When you’re out and about meeting people, you get to know them and people respect you and trust you. I couldn’t thank the people of Waterford enough for the respect they have shown me.” For her 70th birthday, Marie organised afternoon tea at her house and accepted donations instead of presents which raised around €2,500 for Waterford Hospice.
In recent years, the main objective of Waterford Hospice has been to see the dream of having a dedicated palliative care unit realised. The unit, part of the new Dunmore Wing on the grounds of University Hospital Waterford (UHW), is fully-equipped and ready to go but needs Government funding to allow staff recruitment take place.Marie says it’s “disheartening” that the unit is still unopened and highlighted all the behind-the-scenes work involved in getting it to this stage. “We were meant to be up and running in 2007, that’s 13 years ago. It’s there now but it’s still not open. Des Kelly and Tony Kavanagh really fought hard and did so much correspondence with the HSE. They were up and down to Dublin and really pushed for it.”
Marie says it’s “frustrating” when she thinks about the amount of fundraising which has taken place and the amount of money handed over to the HSE – estimated to be over €4.4 million.
“People I meet still say ‘any news of the hospice?’ I have no news as I have stepped back, but it’s very frustrating.”
Sadly, Marie believes Waterford remains “on the backfoot” in relation to a range of different issues.“Waterford has always been on the back burner for everything,” she said, referencing the campaign to bring breast cancer screening to Waterford as an example as well as the ongoing pursuit of 24/7 cardiac cover at UHW. “We don’t shout loud enough. We just sit back and hope something will happen.” She strongly believes that Waterford needs a government Minister and praised the work of Martin Cullen for the local area when he held a Ministerial position.
After stepping back from her fundraising activities with Waterford Hospice, Marie soon found herself back on the fundraising circuit again through her involvement with the Waterford and South-East branch of the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland. It’s a cause which is especially close to her heart as her husband Michael attends the weekly gatherings which are organised by the branch. A group of around 10-12 people with Parkinson’s meet on a regular basis at Waterford Cheshire, John’s Hill and engage in activities which are designed to help themselves.
The gatherings allow participants to have a chat, a cup of tea or coffee, and perform specific exercises in a comfortable setting. Marie believes people living with Parkinson’s and other related conditions are often forgotten about. “There’s very little for people with neurological diseases,” she says. “There needs to be a dedicated centre.” In October 2018, the branch staged a huge fundraising ball at The Woodlands Hotel featuring the Ronan Collins Band which also served to raise awareness of the activities of the branch. Considering that she had pledged to step back from fundraising, Marie said she was overwhelmed by the success of the night and hugely appreciative of the support shown to her.
Prior to getting involved with Waterford Hospice, Marie was already involved with the Irish Cancer Society’s Daffodil Day, working with founders of the Waterford committee Billy Walsh and Olive Daunt. She did collections for Daffodil Day every year, organised coffee mornings and got many different factories involved in fundraising efforts.She has maintained this involvement down through the years and has served as Vice-Chair of the committee. Additionally, she has been fundraising during Breast Cancer Awareness Month each October.
Even though she is stepping back from active fundraising, Marie has been asked to retain a link with Daffodil Day.
“I wouldn’t pull away all together. I will do a bit,” she explained. “You have to have some little thing to keep you going.” Marie was also involved with the Brothers of Charity Services, Belmont, driving service users to and from the centre in a minibus. “I would collect them, drive them to their workshop, drop them off, come home, go back at half three and take them back,” she explained. Marie says she was always happy to support whatever was happening in the local area. She has had a proud involvement with Éigse Sliabh Rua through the ICA and is now involved with Slieverue Active Retirement During her many years set dancing, she was successful in her attempts to get a group of local children onto ‘The Late Late Toy Show’ which was hugely exciting for all in the local area.
Looking back on all that has been achieved, Marie paid tribute to her fellow volunteers.
“I’m glad I did what I did, but I didn’t do it on my own. I had great backing and a great team,” she said. “Without volunteers, there’s a lot of things we would not have in this country.”
She praised the support of the local media in promoting the many endeavours which she has been involved in, and paid tribute to the unwavering support of her family.
“You need that support. You can’t do it on your own,” she said.Marie has been the recipient of numerous awards in recognition of her efforts, including the All-Ireland Inspirational Life Award; the Vodafone/Waterford Chamber ‘Passion for the World Around Us’ Award; and the Irish Pride Hospice Hero Award.Perhaps the best accolade is knowing that the people of Waterford and South Kilkenny are deeply appreciative of all that she has given to so many causes and the manner in which she has so meaningfully contributed to local community life.