Limerick toddler’s legacy recognised with award

Aine Fitzgerald


Aine Fitzgerald

Ivan Tuohy, general manager, Clarion hotel, presenting the Limerick Person of the Month award to Patrice Clarke and Donnacha O'Brien, who is holding a picture of their son, Darragh; also present, Aine Fitzgerald, Limerick Leader and Dave O'Hora, Southern. Picture: Adrian Butler
A COUPLE who lost their only child Darragh, 2, from a sudden unexplained death have been named the Limerick Persons of the Month after raising over €20,000 for a charity which supports suddenly bereaved parents and families.

A COUPLE who lost their only child Darragh, 2, from a sudden unexplained death have been named the Limerick Persons of the Month after raising over €20,000 for a charity which supports suddenly bereaved parents and families.

Patrice Clarke and Donnacha O’Brien, aged 23, were left heartbroken last November when their beloved toddler died unexpectedly at his home at Cooga, Doon.

An hour before he died, Patrice could hear the carefree little boy singing happily to his teddies.

“He was full of beans and tractor mad,” Patrice recalled this week when she and Donnacha were presented with their award.

To celebrate Darragh’s life and raise money for the charity, FirstLight, the couple organised a vintage tractor run and family fun day in Doon on Sunday, April 26 and they also hosted a table quiz in The Local in Doon which saw 54 tables being filled when they expected around 20.

“We have raised over €20,000 and we are hoping to hand it over soon enough. We are still waiting for a small bit to come back,” Patrice explained.

“We are totally overwhelmed by the support and by this award as well,” she added.

Darragh loved going to the vintage show in Doon so they thought they would organise a tractor run and fun day for all the family to keep his memory alive. The couple spread the word through social media and friends, and flyers.

“We had 173 tractors in the run - which stretched over 5km - and then a massive crowd at the fun day,” said Patrice.

“We got the word out on Facebook and then my dad (Timmy Clarke) would be friends with the people in the Vintage Tractor Club in Doon so we got the word out by going to shows and handing out flyers.

“We want to thank all our family and friends who helped with the day and everyone who turned up as well. ”

Darragh was so clever that if a tractor went past the house he could tell them what type it was.

A vintage tractor with “Darragh’s Rig” inscribed on it led the little boy’s funeral procession.

Apart from the odd cough Darragh was never sick a day in his life. He was perfect going to bed that night, November 21.

“He was singing going to bed. If I muted the TV I could hear him singing away to his teddies,” Patrice recalled.

“I just went down to check him before I went to bed and he was gone. He just went in his sleep. I started doing CPR, mam and dad rang an ambulance and they got John from next door who works with the Red Cross.

“He came with the defibrillator in two minutes and the ambulance was here in 40 minutes. There was nothing anyone could have done.”

Donnacha was working in Murroe that night until he got the phone call that is every parent’s worst nightmare.

“I don’t know how I drove to Doon. He was always the picture of health, the picture of happiness. He loved to be outside any chance he got so these days are hard.

“You always fear the worst; you dread something like that happening. You think, especially since he was two, that we were out of the woods with something like this happening.”

The couple received untold love and support from their parents, families, relatives, friends and communities, but they also found solace through FirstLight. The charity offers bereavement support to families of deceased infants or children.

“It is a charity that hopefully no one has to use but unfortunately we are in the position that we are glad that they are there and that we can avail of their support. You would rather you never heard of them but we would like to highlight that they are there, “ said Donnacha.

FirstLight believes that all families should have access to the support and information they need when a child grieves or when a child dies.

Through understanding their grieving process and receiving help in dealing with bereavement from appropriately trained professionals, families can learn to live with their grief and begin rebuilding their lives. They hold monthly meetings in Limerick.

Through their kind-hearted endeavours, Patrice and Donnacha have ensured that despite his short life, little Darragh’s spirit lives on.

“We have good days and bad days,” said Patrice. “I love talking about him and telling everybody about him. He will never be forgotten.”

The Limerick Person of the Month award is sponsored by the Limerick Leader, Southern and the Clarion Hotel.