AFTER spending the past year growing his hair, and forgoing haircuts, Mark ‘Manus’ Harrington from Allihies, Beara, is now getting used to feeling the cold following his recent fundraising head shave in aid of three local charities which are very close to his heart.
Mark (27), who was born with cerebral palsy was keen to find a way to thank the Irish Wheelchair Association, CoAction Beara and West Cork Palliative Care, who in one way or another have helped him and his family over the years, and to give something back to them.
Late in 2014, he came up with the idea of growing his hair for a sponsored head shave to raise much-needed funds for the three charities, who support not just him, but many living throughout the Beara Peninsula.
Mark’s head shave took place over the October Bank Holiday weekend, when a crowd of over 250 people attended the event held at Allihies Community Hall. Upwards of €10,000 was raised on the evening through sponsorship of the headshave, donations, an auction and a monster raffle, with more funds still to be collected from sponsor cards around the Beara Peninsula.
A number of brave men in the audience volunteered to take part in a leg waxing event and a headshave auction saw Richie Palmer of Blackwater, Kenmare volunteer to have his head shaved, along with Brian ‘Boss’ O’Sullivan of Eyeries who lost his beard to the cause. The highlight of the night was without a doubt, Mark, who to great cheers had his long curly hair shaved by Sandra O’Sullivan. Mark’s sister Claire, who helped him organise the event said the family were ‘blown away by the support on the night – it was phenomenal.’
Growing up as the youngest of a family of five, Claire says Mark has never let his disability deter him, ‘He is a real go-getter and doesn’t ever let his wheelchair get in his way.’ A fact which he demonstrated when he enrolled as a student at Darrarra College, Clonakility where he completed a FETAC Level 6 Green Cert in Agriculture, becoming the first ever wheelchair user to complete the course.
It came as no surprise to his sister that he would study agriculture, ‘our family have a farm, and farming is in his heart and his blood, he is always off working with Dad and our brothers, and goes to the mart with them on a regular basis.’ Claire praises all who helped Mark with his dream to attend college, ‘he stayed with the Cope Foundation in Clonakilty who provided a home away from home for him, and the Irish Wheelchair Association provided a driver to take him to and from college and also helped out with his physio.
She continued, ‘Being the first ever wheelchair user to complete the course, it has been a learning curve for the college, but they have been fantastic to Mark and have installed special facilities for him. Everyone has helped him with his projects and he has been so well received.’ The family are now looking forward to Mark’s graduation this month.
In the run up to his head shave, Mark became a minor celebrity around Beara with many well-wishers stopping him for a chat and admiring his hair, which to his surprise had developed curls when he decided to grow it. Speaking in the run-up to the headshave, when asked if he would miss his long hair Mark said, ‘yes and no, but I think I’ll feel the cold for a bit until my hair starts to grow again.’
Mark leads a busy schedule, attending CoAction Beara three days a week, where he is very much involved in the organisation, meeting up with his friends there and receiving help with his college coursework. Mark is also a spokesperson for the organisation’s workers. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays Mark works on the family farm, where he is kept busy helping his father. A keen sportsman, he recently won the All-Ireland Wheelchair Bowling Competition, his second time winning the award.
In his spare time, Mark enjoys watching rugby, snooker, darts and GAA and goes to most club level matches, and also finds time to meet up with his friends for the odd beer.
Marks’s family thanked everyone who gave their time and resources to help organise his fundraising event, particularly the MCs on the night – Richard Hartnett and John ‘Terry’ O’Sullivan and Martin Hegarty for providing the music.The posters advertising the event were designed by Niall O’Sullivan and printed by fast.net printers, all who donated their services for free. They gave particular thanks to everyone throughout Beara who supported Mark’s challenge and donated to his fundraiser.
Mark and his family now plan to hold a presentation ceremony before Christmas to present the three charities with the proceeds raised at Mark’s fundraiser.