A 75-year old West Cork man has been honoured with an outstanding service medal after raising €90,000 for Concern.
Paddy O’Sullivan, a father of nine and a small farmer from the Mealagh Valley, admits he didn’t have much himself when he started raising money for people dying of starvation in Africa.
He recalled how, 40 years ago, he had been playing a game of cards at Bantry Golf Club, when a programme came on the television that showed people dying for the want of food.
‘We didn’t have much, but we had enough to eat,’ said Paddy, who received his medal through the post and attended a Zoom presentation ceremony at the weekend.
Paddy’s joy in collecting for Concern comes from the kindness of the people he meets when selling raffle tickets door to door, particularly his neighbours in the valley.
The thing that impresses him most is the unwavering trust people place in him as they hand over cash for a raffle that is a story in its own right.
Paddy got the idea to raise funds after he won a turkey at cards. ‘I thought if I bought two turkeys and held a game in my house I could raise a few pounds,’ he said.
The first game raised £84, which Paddy said was ‘a good bit of money 40 years ago.’ The following year, the amount was double.
But with kids running up and down the stairs, Paddy decided to change tack and established a raffle offering £40 – out of his own pocket – as the prize with tickets priced at ‘a pound a piece.’
There has, of course, been a currency change in the meantime and Paddy made the necessary adjustment. €50 is now the grand prize – a prize that winners frequently hand back to him as a further donation for Concern.
Paddy has raised €90,000 through raffles and church gate collections and he speaks in glowing terms of all those who assist him in Bantry, Kealkil, Coomhola, Dromore, Caheragh, Drinagh, Drimoleague and Enniskeane.
Every year, around Christmas time, the raffle is held locally at Dromclough National School. He thinks of it as a kind of Christmas present from one community to another.
‘It’s good to help people,’ he said, ‘when you see people suffering with hunger it is terrible.
‘Famine is still with us. There are still people with nothing to eat and no way of getting money. When faced with that, you have to do something.’
Paddy has pledged to continue his fundraising efforts ‘for as long as God gives me strength.’