NUMBERS and dates matter a great deal to John Dillon.
It’s not surprising really, when you consider that the Castletroy man has been in charge of the Wheel of Fortune at the annual Milford Fair Hospice fundraiser since the event began.
John takes great pride in spinning the big wheel every year, where the luckiest of the ticket holders take away lovely prizes donated by businesses and the public throughout the Mid-West.
This year, though, the number 30 holds an extra significance for John as he is currently preparing to take charge of the big wheel for the 30th successive year as Milford Fair celebrates a landmark birthday on Sunday, August 30 at the University of Limerick campus for the newly renamed Fund Day.
John’s association with Milford Hospice goes back even further, as he explained.
“In 1977, the Little Company of Mary Sisters decided to allocate nine beds in their nursing home at Castletroy to Hospice Palliative Care in a pioneering move. At the time, I was involved in a fundraising committee that was organising a major raffle to fund the re-roofing of the Redemptorist Church.
“The plan was to raise enough money over a three-four year period, but the roof was actually paid for after just six months.
“So instead of continuing to fundraise for the church, the committee acceded to a request from the Chaplain then assigned by the Redemptorist Order to the fledgling Hospice to switch our efforts to support it. The committee en bloc became the first ‘Friends of Milford Hospice’ and I happen to be the sole survivor of that group who is still involved 38 years later,” he laughed.
John is in a good position then to chronicle the growth of the Fair over the years.
He remembers how Eamonn Ryan first came up with the idea of a Harvest Fair and how it featured a gymkhana in the grounds of Milford in the early days, with participants gaining points to qualify for the Dublin Horse Show.
For a time, the Fair was also held in a nearby premises thanks to the generosity of the then building’s owner, PJ Noonan, before UL kindly offered the use of the Sports Arena.
Retired garage owner John, who sold his business at the Parkway roundabout 10 years ago, is more enthusiastic than ever about the build-up to this year’s special day.
And he has a few more key numbers at hand to emphasise the importance of the day for people in the region.
“Milford caters for approximately 600 people at its Hospice each year and a further 1,300 are served by Hospice at Home Teams throughout Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary,” he explained.
“To provide even more advanced services and to respond to growing demands, Milford is to build a specialist new Hospice with all single occupancy rooms by the end of 2017 which will cost €7.7m. To help fund this development and to maintain ongoing services, a fundraising target of €2m per annum has been set for the next four years.
“The Fund Day therefore is the major fundraising venture for this year and we are hoping that it will attract a huge response again from the general public and business community.
“We have received wonderful support from local firms, for instance, over the years and we hope that they will respond with donations of new items for the Wheel of Fortune and Grand Raffle.
“Our own family experienced the wonderful care afforded by Milford to two brothers of mine and I am giving back just a little in return. As long as I’m able, I will continue to do so.
“At a community level, I know that there’s hardly a family in the surrounding region that has not been touched in some way over the years by the work of Milford and that is why there is such great goodwill towards the organisation and the upcoming Fund-Day,” he added.
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