A Westmeath organic farmer is chairing the Hooves 4 Hospice campaign, which is seeing Lions Club members undertake an aim to raise €1 million to provide a level three hospice for the midlands.

“The midland region of counties of Laois, Longford, Offaly and Westmeath, is now the only area in the Ireland which does not have a level three regional hospice,” said Pat Lalor, who is behind Kilbeggan Organic Foods.

“A level three hospice is a state-of-the-art purpose built facility where end-of-life care is provided by specially trained doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff.

“The funding model that has been used everywhere else in the country involves the hospice building costs being met by the local community, and the ongoing service costs being met by the HSE.

“The costs involved are significant, and it is estimated that a 15-bed unit would cost in the region of €14 million,” the cereal and beef farmer said.

“Members of our community who need full-time, specialised, end-of-life care, have no choice but to travel to Dublin, Limerick or Galway – and this imposes an additional stressful burden on family members who must frequently travel long distances to visit their loved ones.

“There are currently a number of smaller community care units in the region which do a fantastic job, but level three care is another step-up which should be available in every region,” Pat said.

Lions Club

Pat is a member of the Tullamore Lions Club and together with other Lions Clubs in the region, it has undertaken an mission to raise €1 million towards the building of a hospice for the midland region.

“We launched our Hooves 4 Hospice fundraising drive in January last year, and this involves inviting farmers to donate an animal to the project and when the animal is sold, the proceeds are lodged in the Hooves 4 Hospice bank account, which is managed by Tullamore Lions Club,” he said.

“Farmers have the choice of a number of options: They can donate and rear their own animal; donate an animal and the committee will find another farmer willing to rear it; rear an animal which the committee will provide; or make a donation which will go towards purchasing animals for the project.

“Farmers receive a very attractive Hooves 4 Hospice farm gate sign and a special ear tag for each animal committed.

“To date we have 468 animals committed to the project. Considering the series of lockdowns which began soon after we launched Hooves 4 Hospice, we are very pleased with our progress, and it is a wonderful testament to the generosity of farmers and other members of our community.

Project support

“€1 million is a massive sum of money to raise, but when we witness how people are offering their support to our project it gives our committee an incredible boost, and ensures that our determination to reach the magic number of €1 million will never wane,” Pat said.

“Recently we have begun to sell some of our animals, and they are averaging a sale price in excess of €1,300 each. Local marts and meat processors are also helping us to achieve top prices for our animals.

“In addition, we are getting wonderful support from sporting organisations; agri businesses; national and second level schools; and the community at large. National and local print and broadcast media are very supportive also.

“I am privileged to be chairman of the organising committee, whose members have continued, since January last year, to show exceptional commitment to this project. We have appointed a part-time project manager to do the day-to-day work and he is equally committed,” said Pat.

“I firmly believe that if we have been lucky in life and have gained valuable skills and experience over our lifetime, it is incumbent on us to use those skills and to give something worthwhile back to our community.

“Lions clubs across the world work together and our motto is ‘We Serve.’ No Lions member is paid, and all the administration costs comes from members’ annual membership fee,” Pat concluded.

Anyone who wants to support Hooves 4 Hospice can contact Gerry on: 085 -8775477; email: [email protected], or visit www.h4h.midlandhospice.ie.