WALKING TO HELP THOSE WHO CANNOT
Caroline Bjoerk will trek 330km from Clifden to Dublin in aid of those affected by spinal injuries
THOUGH not reputed to be the world’s most dangerous sport, horse riding still claims the lives of countless riders across the world each year. It is well documented that eventing ranks highly in this group, with rotational falls the primary cause of death. For those who do survive, it is estimated that 25pc of riders are left permanently disabled.
One rider who is eternally grateful not to have been left paralysed, or worse, from a near-catas trophic f al l in Ballindenisk in 2004 is Caroline Bjoerk.
“I was one of the lucky ones,” she said, reflecting on the tragic deaths of some of her fellow international competitors, including Karen Rodgers.
However, she is working hard to overcome an injury which cut short her international career.
“It was only 18 months after my fall that I began to get back pain and it became so severe that I was completely limited in my riding.”
Now, a decade later, Caroline wants to give something back to the specialist surgeons at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, who have helped her go on to live as normal a life as possible.
“I feel so lucky to have made such a great recovery from the problems I’ve experienced in recent years, but it only happened through the extraordinary work of Professor Ciarán Bolger and his team,” she said.
With this in mind, she has organised a marathon charity walk from Clifden to Beaumont Hospital which kicks off on March 23.
“This is my way of showing my gratitude and hopefully the money raised will help many other back pain sufferers through continued research.”
Caroline’s fundraising idea was inspired by jockey JT McNamara, who has been left paralysed after a fall while racing at Cheltenham 12 months ago. Another tragedy that influenced her decision was that of family friend, Stuart Mangan, who died in August of 2009 following complications arising from a spinal injury suffered while playing rugby 12 months earlier.
In a kind gesture, Stuart’s family have donated some signed jerseys to Caroline, which will be auctioned off to contribute towards her goal of raising €50,000. Other fund-raising events have already taken place in recent weeks, with some €12,000 alone raised during a musical evening held at Caroline’s home in Kilcock, Co Kildare.
“So many people suffer from chronic back pain that limits their lives, so everyone benefits from research that helps relieve the life-altering pain and debilitation it can cause,” she said.
Although the fundraising will be her primary aim, Caroline is also hoping to raise awareness for young athletes as they strive to make it on to the international stage.
“Fitness is so important for these young athletes,” she said, having herself seen the benefits of walking to strengthen her back as she recovered from numerous operations.
“As part of my recovery, my surgeon told me to walk as much as possible, so I decided I would take on this long walk as a challenge to raise this money,” she said.
Caroline has been in training for several months now and in the lead up has been walking up to 20 kilometres three times a week. “I did my first 30-kilometre walk recently, so I am getting there.”
Entitled Walking For Those Who Can’t, the 330 kilometre walk will take Caroline from Clifden on March 23 through Connemara, Galway, Oranmore and Craughwell. From there, she will pass through Loughrea, Ballinasloe, Athlone, Moate, Tyrellspass, Kinnegad, Kilcock, Leixlip and finally Beaumont Hospital, Dublin. She hopes to finish on April 5.
“It’s going to be tough, but I am really looking forward to it and I’d like as many people as possible to support this cause and get involved.”
Caroline’s son, Peter, has already vowed to walk much of the way, but people from across the country are invited to join in along the route over the two weeks.
The full schedule will be available on www.walkingforthosewhocant.com and also vi a her Facebook page www.facebook.com/pages/ Walking-For-Those-Who-Cant.
Anyone interested in making a donation to this worthy cause can do so by calling 018092161.
MUSICALITY: Well-known musicians Liam O'Flynn (centre), Rod McVey and Neil Martin (on cello) at the recent musical evening which raised 12,000