If it wasn’t for the pandemic, today (Friday, March 26) would be a traditional Irish Cancer Society Daffodil Day, with social fundraising activities held all around the country.

But the awareness of cancer could never be lost; and those who wish to still raise money in aid of charities, cancer services and palliative care units are finding innovative ways to do so.

Donate a calf fundraiser

And one thing that certainly hasn’t changed is the generosity – and this week, the generosity of the farming community has certainly been highlighted.

A ‘donate a calf’ charity sale held at Listowel Mart this week, along with further donations, has raised “north of €80,000, hitting €90,000” for the Palliative Care Unit of University Hospital Kerry (UHK).

Over 300 calves were donated from all over the county of Kerry, and even the country, with the sale deemed a “huge success”.

This sale was the wish of a local Moyvane farmer, John McGrath, who died of cancer earlier this year. His fiancée, Erin Stack, carried out this wish – through combining John’s desire to fundraise for the unit and his passion for farming.

‘They’d give you your heart’

John’s brother, Ciaran, wishes to thank everyone who donated a calf, donated money, or helped out in any other way.

“There’s still donations coming in…I can’t believe it. We are absolutely delighted,” he told Agriland.

It was way bigger than we expected – the goodwill was unbelievable. We didn’t ask anyone for a calf, we let it up to themselves. They’d give you their heart.

“Farmers want to give. Everywhere that calves were collected, everyone was so positive. People are just awful good.

“A lot of people we talked to had stories – the cause touched a lot of people.

“After a bad year, it’s great to have something good happen.”

‘John will be forever proud’

Ciaran said there were “great calves” donated, and the best price of the sale was €980 for a heifer calf belonging to one of John’s best friends.

“You’d shake a lot of buckets for what we earned,” Ciaran said.

I can’t see why this shouldn’t be in every mart in the country. There should be a calf for cancer fundraiser held every year. Hopefully someone in a mart elsewhere will think it’s a good idea and decide to do it.

“We did it for Bóthar years ago. There’s a great feeling of giving – especially in farming, sometimes you haven’t got the cash, so it can sometimes be easier to donate a calf.

“We’re somewhere north of €80,000, hitting 90,000…and John had raised €50,000 last year so it’s adding up to something like €140,000.

“I cannot thank people enough. John will be forever proud.”

About John

John had a “life-long love” of farming, and had worked happily on the family dairy farm in Moyvane, north Kerry.

But his was a life that was cut far too short by terminal illness. In January 2020, he was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. A year later, on January 26, he passed away.

A popular man, he was involved with local football and soccer, and was due to get married to Erin in December 2020.

“He was just a bit too sick at the time so then they postponed it, and then he got very sick at Christmas and he died on January 26,” Ciaran said.

“It was sudden in the end. John didn’t want to go into palliative care in the beginning – he was very sick last February [2020] and he was emotional when he heard palliative care mentioned because he thought it meant the end of life.

But six times he went in there during the year and every time he came out like a new man. They’re unbelievable. We never knew about palliative care before, it was a world we knew nothing about. But now, we can’t praise them enough.

“He appreciated those in there so much – people are so afraid of it when they don’t know anything about it. I think it’s important to raise a bit of awareness of this too.”