Din­gle army man lends Pieta a hand

JOHN AN­THONY THOMAS (28) TO DON ARMY GEAR FOR 48KM DIN­GLE ROUTE

The Kerryman (South Kerry Edition) - - NEWS - By TADHG EVANS

DUR­ING his six years in the Ir­ish De­fence Forces, south Le­banon-based Din­gle man John An­thony Thomas has faced chal­lenges such as pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity at air­ports and prisons, and this year he’ ll face a rig­or­ous process as he pur­sues “Cor­po­ral” rank at Lim­er­ick’s 12th Bat­tal­ion, ahead of pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity dur­ing the Pa­pal visit this sum­mer.

But as if all this weren’t hec­tic enough, the 28-year-old, due back to Din­gle in the com­ing days, is set to take on the daunt­ing Din­gle Ad­ven­ture Race, a 48-km chal­lenge that calls on par­tic­i­pants to run, kayak, and cy­cle their way around west Kerry. In do­ing so, John An­thony will nav­i­gate wa­ter­ways, roads, and dif­fi­cult climbs – in full army uni­form while car­ry­ing a back-pack.

Jason Hayes – a 29-year-old col­league and house­mate of John An­thony’s from Bruff, county Lim­er­ick – will join his friend on Kerry soils and seas, and John An­thony ex­plained that they’re not tak­ing on the chal­lenge to raise funds for Pieta House and fly the flag for men­tal health.

“Both our com­mu­ni­ties, like thou­sands of oth­ers around Ire­land, have been af­fected by the is­sues of sui­cide and self­harm,” he said. “We both feel that not enough is be­ing done to help and sup­port the young men and women of Ire­land who have is­sues with men­tal health, es­pe­cially young men be­tween the ages of 15 and 25.

“Per­son­ally, I didn’t un­der­stand the ef­fect sui­cide can have on a group of young friends and fam­ily, or a com­mu­nity as a whole, un­til the age of 19 when my group of friends lost a pop- ular, hard-work­ing young man who was well-re­spected and held in high re­gard by ev­ery­one.

“We [he and Jason] wanted to stand out, so we de­cided to wear our uni­form and carry a back-pack with the hope of cre­at­ing in­ter­est around our fund-raiser. It’s not some­thing you see too of­ten and it will test us phys­i­cally and men­tally more so than the other com­peti­tors.

“We may re­gret it on the day, but it will be worth it when it’s over and we are sip­ping on a cold pint in a snug some­where in Din­gle.”

The pair has al­ready raised €7,000 for Pieta House in the lead-up to the chal­lenge – all the more re­mark­able given they ini­tially thought €3,000 would be a suc­cess.

John An­thony’s col­league, Jason, has a hurl­ing pedi­gree hav­ing rep­re­sented his county at Mi­nor, Un­der-21, and Ju­nior, and it there­fore comes as no sur­prise that 2017 Hurler of the Year Joe Can­ning has pro­moted the up­com­ing chal­lenge through so­cial me­dia.

“We are both look­ing for­ward to the chal­lenge”, John An­thony said. “Hope­fully the rain might hold off. The uni­form can be a lot heav­ier when it’s wet, es­pe­cially the boots.

“Ev­ery­one has been very gen­er­ous, and we both re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate it.”

If you’d like to do­nate, visit give.ev­ery­day­hero.com/ie/john-an­thony-jason-s-pieta-house-fundraiser-chal­lenge.

John An­thony Thomas (sec­ond from left) on duty in south Le­banon for the Ir­ish De­fence Forces.

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