We decided to hold a fundraiser before we left to kickstart our fundraising project for Sydney’s children’s Hospital foundation and Our lady’s children’s hospital Crumlin. We decided to have it on the 20th July. Things had been so busy with finishing work and organising all the other things to do that it was the Monday before, the 15th July before we got around to start organising it. Talk about last minute.... when we started Monday morning we thought "we should have done this weeks ago, we are up against it here to have a good event Saturday night"
Luckily there is a lot of generous and great people in Sydney that were there to help out. First we needed a venue and a MC. I rang a great friend of mine in Paul Kilroy and told him the plan. Paul is a leading fitness trainer and mindset coach in Sydney and does workshops in the Gaelic Club in Surry Hills. He put me in touch with Karl Kinsella who offered The Gaelic Club, bar staff and security all free of charge. We can’t thank Karl enough and is now a good friend of ours along with all others in The Gaelic Club. Paul Kilroy offered his services as MC. Perfect, it was all working out, next we needed some music, live Irish music if we could get it. I got in touch with another leading fitness instructor in Syndey in Aisling Vaughan. When Aisling is not helping other people achieve their fitness goals she is playing in a band. Unfortunately the other members of Aisling’s band were not available but she put me in touch with Steven Powell who has a group called the Celtic Tones. I got in touch with Steven who said leave it with him and he’ll see what he can do. It was a bit of stressful wait as I thought “People will already have plans and what do we come up with then” Steven got back to me 24 hours later and had 6 musicians and all offering their time for free, absolutely amazing and cannot thank them all enough. We organised a sound engineer to work the sound for the night and now it was up to us to get the word out.
We made up a few online flyers and shared them on Instagram and Facebook. An old work colleague and friend Robert Brouder called, Rob helps organise the Patrick’s day parade in Sydney and was able to get the word around to all GAA clubs and other Irish community pages and got them to share it too. I went through my phone book and texted all my friends I had made over the last 9 years.
A couple of weeks before this I had mentioned to my mother Mary Flynn about having a fundraiser. A few days later when I was chatting to her she had signed Irish international soccer and rugby jerseys and signed GAA jerseys on the way. She worked tirelessly and drove up and down the country picking them up. Our friend Willie Howard donated a signed Leicester City Jersey from the team the won the 2016 premier league and another great friend Eddie Maher kindly donated memorabilia gloves signed by Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor from their “money fight” in 2016.
Auction items sorted but we needed raffle prizes. Thursday morning, 2 days before the event we sat at the kitchen table and scratched our heads, we had $500 of auction prizes. Not enough if we wanted to make a few pound. I rang my friend Rachael Waters for a chat and told her. She said “I’ll sort it” Rachael got the word around to all our friends that live in Mascot, most of which are childhood friends as we all grew up in the Carrick on Suir area. You could say it is bizarre that we all grew up together at home and about 20 of us all from the Carrick on Suir area living within 500 metres of each other on the other side of the world. Thursday night we had $5,000 worth of prizes, thanks to all these great friends. We were all set for a great night.
Saturday 20th July came and Daithi and I brought our bikes into The Gaelic Club and put everything up for auction and the prizes on offer in the raffle out and showcased the lot. The night was a massive massive success, 136 people turned up, 14 musicians came along for free and played all night. A massive $28,211 was raised for the children’s hospitals. None of this would have been possible with the help and generosity of our friends and the Irish community in Sydney. It was almost like a dream. We couldn’t have planned or asked for a better night with some great people. To all the people that helped make it happen, thank you. A truly magical night that we will never forget. Not just magical but inspiring too. The support and well wishes from everyone there was heart warming and we are representing each of them on this journey.
Since the fundraiser night we were still gathering bits and pieces we were going to need. Selling furniture from the apartment and preparing for the adventure. There was always something needed to be done so it was hard to reflect on the last 9 years I spent in Australia. On the day before we left we got a ferry to Manly to Aaron Dunford (fusion peak cycle fitting) for a bike fit. Aaron doesn’t work Saturdays but fitted us in last minute and we are grateful he did. There is a science behind a bike fit, we only found this out 18 hours before we left, we though saddle height and handlebar height, that was a bike fit. Turns out there is alot more to it than that. Cleat position and kinetic energy through the body, a 1mm wedge in your shoe can make a massive difference to the power you generate. He was able to do a fascinating test where we would put pressure down on our foot and raise our arm while he would try and push it down. If he could push it down it was a weak test. He put a 1mm wedge in the end of my shoe and we redid the test. My arm would not budge when he tried to push it down. That's called a strong test and now the power was coming from my shoulders down to my feet generating more power and more efficient cycling.
On the way back in the ferry, it kinda hit me that this was my last night in Sydney after all these years. A lot of great memories, when I landed in Sydney in 2010 I never thought I would cycle home, three years ago I never thought cycling home was even an option, what a crazy way to travel but it appealed to me straight away when I heard about bike touring and here we are. To have my best mate Daithí along side me and share the experience with him makes it even better. Passing the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House one last time... for now at least. Sydney has been home for the last 9 years but I feel I have gotten everything it has to offer me out of it.
Time to get out of the city, cities are convenient, things are easy, too easy almost, time to go into the unknown and explore and learn about the world before the next chapter in life back home in Ireland.
Two years in the making and the day is finally here. Motivated and inspired by all the support of friends and strangers in Australia and in Ireland. Time to turn this dream into a reality.