Fundraisers paddle around Clare for boy fighting rare cancer

Donal Parsons (7) diagnosed with stage-four neuroblastoma last October

Intrepid adventurers embarked yesterday on a 20km stand-up paddle from Doolin, Co Clare, around the Cliffs of Moher, in aid of the Donal Parsons Trust. Photograph: Colin Gillen/Framelight

Intrepid adventurers embarked yesterday on a 20km stand-up paddle from Doolin, Co Clare, around the Cliffs of Moher, in aid of the Donal Parsons Trust. Photograph: Colin Gillen/Framelight

 

“It is absolutely amazing out here.” With the Cliffs of Moher just coming into view, Mike Ballantine was taking in the beauty of the north Clare coastline yesterday as he and his band of stand-up paddlers continued on their way, a quarter of a mile off the coast, down to Liscannor harbour.

Speaking by mobile phone from his paddle board, Mr Ballantine said: “This is the perfect day for this. We are just coming to ‘Aileen’s’ and will be passing by the Cliffs of Moher soon.”

Two hours earlier, Mr Ballantine and nine other paddle surfers set out from Doolin pier under blue skies.

Among them was Andy Parsons, father of Donal (7), from Strandhill.

Last October, Donal was diagnosed with stage-four neuroblastoma, a rare cancer in children. He is being treated at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin.

Before taking part in the 20km paddle, Mr Parsons said: “I’m a painter so I don’t think that equips me for something like this, but I am looking forward to it.”

Top surfers

Mr Parsons was in good company for the trip, with some of Ireland’s top big-wave surfers, Feargal Smith, Barry Mottershead and Seamus McGoldrick, paddling their way to Liscannor. The 10-strong group have been on standby for the past six months waiting for the perfect conditions.

The paddle was in aid of the Donal Parsons Trust, which has been established to help Donal access treatments to prevent relapse and to pay for any future treatments.

Donal has been undergoing intensive treatment since last October to deal with the tumour originally detected in his stomach. He is now recovering from a recent bone-marrow transplant. “Donal has been incredibly tough mentally and physically,” said Mr Parsons.

The diagnosis “has been a nightmare for everyone, but the treatment that Donal has got here has been brilliant”.

Yesterday, Donal’s mother, Jane, remained home in Sligo to care for him following the transplant.

“Donal is weak after the operation and his immune system is wiped completely,” she said.

“He is in isolation at home because any infection he might get would be devastating.”

Ten children each year in Ireland are diagnosed with this type of cancer, she said.

“We can’t sit and wait for it to come back. That is why there is the trust; to have the money in place to allow Donal get treatment or participate in clinical trials in the US.”

She added that they remained hopeful and positive because Donal had responded so well to the treatments so far.

For more information see donalparsonstrust.com and facebook.com/donalparsonstrust