By Conor Forrest
JONATHAN Irwin, founder of the Johnstown-based Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation, celebrates his 80th birthday on Monday next 21 June and is taking full advantage of this milestone to help raise funds for a cause very close to his heart.
He’s urging people to donate €18 at jackandjill.ie for a one-hour ‘Gift of Time’ to help fund specialist home nursing care for 385 children with life-limiting conditions supported by Jack & Jill around the country, including 20 children in Kildare.
Jack & Jill has set up a Facebook fundraising page in Jonathan’s name to capture birthday messages and donations, as well as featuring a gallery of stories and pictures dedicated to the man who founded the Foundation 24 years ago in his son Jack’s name.
Avid readers living in Kildare can also lend their support to Jonathan’s fundraising efforts by purchasing ***Jack & Jill: The Story of Jonathan Irwin***. The book is available for a special birthday price of €5 from the Jack & Jill charity boutiques in the Courtyard Shopping Centre in Newbridge and at Unit 7, The Craft Village in Crookstown, where people can also leave a special birthday message for Jonathan, or via jackandjill.ie while stocks last.
Carmel Doyle, CEO of Jack & Jill, acknowledged the incredible difference that Jonathan and his wife Mary Ann O’Brien have made for countless families since they set up the Foundation in 1997.
“The Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation was born arising from Jonathan and Mary Ann’s own difficult care journey when their son Jack suffered permanent brain damage soon after birth, leaving him with severe disabilities and in need of round-the-clock care,” she said. “Thanks to the help of a team of local nurses and friends who rallied around, they were able to look after Jack at home until he passed away on 13 December 1997 aged 22 months, just short of his second birthday. Jack’s home nursing care regime would become the blueprint for the Jack & Jill model of care that we know today and which has since helped more than 2,600 families to care for their children at home, where they belong, supported by specially-trained nurses and carers.”
Jonathan, meanwhile, remarked that “for me, the best birthday present would be to help raise lots of funds for the Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation to help the charity to do what it does best. I am so proud to see the charity extend its age range from five to six years, a hugely positive development which is so welcomed by families and made possible by the continued generosity of people towards Jack & Jill.
“It costs €18 an hour for Jack & Jill to provide specialist home nursing care and that hour is a lifeline for so many families. An hour to take another child to the playground. An hour to meet up with a friend for coffee. An hour to maybe buy an outfit in the summer sales. An hour just to grab 40 winks. An hour, perhaps, to go for a walk in the local park or on the beach. All the while knowing that their child is in the best possible hands. To me, that would be the best birthday present, because there’s no present like the time. That said, I wouldn’t say no to some birthday cake!”
The work that Jack & Jill does makes such a difference, helping to relieve some of the additional pressure on family carers, particularly with so much local respite cancelled as a result of the pandemic. Typically, Jack & Jill offers 50 hours of home nursing care for families each month, costing up to €10,800 per family per year. Despite COVID, the service has kept going across the country. There is no waiting list or means test with Jack & Jill and the service operates seven days a week.
If you’d like to mark Jonathan Irwin’s big day by donating €18 to fund an hour of specialist home nursing care, visit jackandjill.ie or phone 045 894538. And to keep up-to-date on Jack & Jill’s work, follow them on Instagram @jackandjillcf, on Twitter @jackandjillcf, and on Facebook @jackandjillfoundation.