Mums Who Inspire

Mum is raising funds for hospital where her two-year-old has lived all his life

As part of our Mums Who Inspire series, we sat down with friends and neighbours, Gemma Fletcher and Jean Donnelly, to learn more about their inspirational story of how running plays a part in their everyday life while also raising awareness for Jean's son, Henry. If you have a story that you would like to be featured, email mumswhoinspire[at]

Life throws a spanner in the works every now and again, but most of the time it leads you to exactly where you're supposed to be. 

Gemma and Jean can relate to this quite well – the next door neighbours and friends have come together to take on a monumental task, but it wasn't through the easiest of circumstances they conspired.

Speaking with MagicMum, the remarkable pair have taught us a great deal about friendship, community spirit, exercise and the importance of fundraising. 

Jean, a 38-year-old, mum-of-three, welcomed her youngest son Henry into the world in 2015 along with her husband Robbie.

Living in a rural village in County Offaly, the couple are hoping to bring Henry home this year, as the tot has spent his entire life residing in Temple Street Children's Hospital. 

Henry was born with Down syndrome; he has also battled Leukaemia and has a tracheostomy in place.

Having battled more obstacles in two years than some would in a lifetime, the tot has shone through, and now his family feel it is time to give back. 

Jean took up running back in 2011 when she was at home, feeling she needed a new challenge: "It can be difficult sometimes, but early mornings work best for me."

"My training is done locally, but I am very excited to be getting away for the NYC Marathon – besides running, a little shopping might happen!"

While Jean has taken part in two marathons before, her friend and neighbour, Gemma, has never completed the feat, the challenge ahead a first for the mum-of-three. 

At the age of 40, she is about to fly across the Atlantic to take on the monumental challenge – but what is it that has prompted the leap?

Gemma took up running six years ago when her neighbour (Jean) was training for the Dublin City Marathon, taking off on runs for company and support. 

"I remember my first run – I hated it, felt sick and couldn't breathe. Looking back now, I think that run was about 2km."

While she tries to get her runs in during the early mornings, it isn't always a straight forward process factoring family life into the mix: "I get it hard to prioritise my running, so the motivation of the marathon is helping me."

But as with most mums, they both agree that it's quite important to get that break away from the family fold: "It's one of the few things I do without some of my family outside of work. It's great to get out with company and vent or chat. It's great 'me' time," added Gemma. 

And when Jean had suggested running the marathon with her, the fellow mum-of-three, surprisingly, didn't hold back, even thought she is informed statistically she'll probably never run one again.

Nonetheless, she remembers the task at hand: "I thought long and hard before signing on the dotted line."

"It's an opportunity to raise much needed funds for Temple Street by putting myself out of my comfort zone. It's a cause close to our hearts. We have seen first hand the use of the playroom alone for Henry's brother and sister when they stay up there and the assistance it has given their family."

While Jean adds: "The playroom has been vital in the care, education and emotional needs of our other two children. The respiratory team have been instrumental too, and funds raised will go toward equipment which can help other families." 

Speaking about the importance of communities and the role of motherhood, Gemma acutely hits the nail on the head: "Fundraising is easily done in rural communities, people are always willing to put their shoulder to the wheel in times of need."

"[I also believe] mums are powerful people, and together that strength has no bounds. I think mums are ideal partners for ventures that combine many tasks and challenges," as the pair set about training and fundraising together. 

Jean admits that it is an exciting time for her family to plan for Henry's homecoming, but that it is an anxious time too, however, juggling work, running and family life is something which she feels is manageable.

"I think when it's your family, no matter how hard it is or tired you become, you find the energy from someplace."

"Our family just feel it's important to give back, from our experiences we are aware of families who are less fortunate than ours, we are thankful for the little things."

Because of this all funds raised from the marathon run will be donated to the hospital's respiratory unit, the play room and toward music therapy, as Jean concludes: "Support comes from family, friends and your community."

"When our son comes home I know that he'll be looked after as one of their own, disability or no disability."

Best of luck to these mums, and we have no doubt they will do Henry, Temple Street, family, friends and their community proud. If you would like to donate, you can do so here

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