A COUNTY Limerick priest swapped his white vestments for a black wetsuit on St Stephen’s day when he jumped into a bitterly cold Lough Gur as part of a festive fundraiser.
In the region of 200 people looked on as Fr Joe Foley of Bruff took to the waters at the ancient heritage site to raise funds for local man Johnny Ryan, 23, who has been confined to a wheelchair following an accident during the summer.
“It was very cold. We stayed in for a few minutes. I had a wet suit on - I would have pneumonia otherwise,” said the Bruff curate who was joined in the lake by retired garda Joe Stack, Maurice Hehir, the proprietor of the Old Bakehouse restaurant in Bruff and local resident Leigh Twiddle.
“The committee asked me if I would do it. We were supposed to do it on Christmas morning but we said we would wait until St Stephen’s morning,” he added.
Johnny Ryan who is from Ardekeohane, Bruff was involved in an accident outside his home last July.
He has completed nearly three months of physiotherapy at the National Rehabilitation Centre and was at the lakeside in Lough Gur to see his local priest jump into the water.
“For sure, everybody has been so great around the place. They’ve done so much and it’s always good to see Joe Foley jumping into a cold lake on a Monday morning,” he laughed.
Ger Browne of the Johnny Ryan Fundraising Committee said that the novel fundraising idea captured the imagination and is part of an ongoing fundraising drive.
“It something that might start small but grow into a bigger event. There was a fine crowd there - they were from all around the locality, not just from Bruff. They were there from Meanus and Grange and Knockainey as well. There is going to be a lot of fundraising for that young man,” he said.