A new hospice building in Co. Roscommon received a funding boost recently after more than 50 sheep farmers around the region came together to raise money through wool donations for the second year in a row.

After presenting Mayo Roscommon Hospice with a cheque for €3,160.50, Ann Sheridan who organised the fundraiser with her family, spoke to Agriland about how it all came about.

Ann and her husband, who run a mixed farm in the county, first came up with the idea in lockdown last year, when wool prices were so low that sheep farmers in the region were receiving cheques for as little as €8.

“We wondered would anyone be interested in donating their wool and we would give the proceeds to a charity.

“So, we asked some neighbours with sheep and they said they would be delighted because the cheques were so small that it was barely worth it to cash them,” she explained.

They contacted a local wool merchant who agreed to come on board and write a single cheque for the combined amount that he would have paid to farmers for all the donated wool.

The initiative managed to raise a total of €2,200 in 2021, however, it bet its own record this year after Ann’s daughter shared the plan on her social media channels.

“She got a huge response. We put it up that we would collect the wool in our yard on a certain day in July and asked people to let us know they were coming. They dropped it off and we filled four big sheds with wool.

“They came down from Meath, they came from Mayo, they came from Galway, Leitrim, Sligo and other counties too.

“Some farmers had nine or 10 fleeces and some had 500 fleeces but every one counted,” said Ann.

The wool merchant, P. Coffey and Sons, got involved and said he would happily collect the fleeces, Ann detailed. She added that they ended up with more than 12t of wool which filled three lorries.

P. Coffey and Sons collecting the donated wool. Image: Ann Sheridan

In addition, others that donated wool dropped it directly to Coffeys, while some sheep farmers offered to donate a portion of theirs when the merchant was collecting it during his usual rounds, according to Ann.

“It’s absolutely outstanding and we just cannot thank the sheep farmers enough.

“The quality of the wool that came in as well was out of this world, the merchant said it himself,” she added.

Private donations

As news of the fundraiser spread, people from outside the sheep farming community also decided to get involved, and Ann accepted a number of private donations from those who couldn’t provide wool.

“We had gotten private donations from people who thought it was a great idea, I suppose there is no house that isn’t using hospice at some stage, that isn’t touched by it.

“Coffey wrote a single, wool cheque and we brought the donations and totted them up with Martina Jennings, the CEO of the hospice.

“We totted it up and the final amount was €3,162.50,” she said.

One of the Sheridan’s four sheds full of wool. Image: Ann Sheridan

“The farmers that got involved were delighted when they heard about it because there are so few places taking wool. You have to shear the sheep for animal welfare, but then they have the wool in their sheds and what are you going to do with it?

“So they said they would love to support it and had no problem in donating some to the hospice,” Ann added.

Will it be an annual initiative?

A lot can happen in a year and you never know what position people will be in to donate wool, time or money, said Ann.

She and her family plan to put feelers out in May 2023 and gauge whether or not people would like to take part again, but don’t want to put pressure on those to repeat the gesture.

“Everyone has their own pockets that are crying out, so we’ll send out the feelers and contact Patrick Coffey as well.

“Nobody knows what next year will bring so we’ll see. So many farmers have asked that, they said ‘if you’re doing it again, let me know.

“Maybe it will continue, maybe it won’t, that’s in the hands of tomorrow,” she finished.

The Roscommon Hospice building is completed and it’s hoped that it will open to patients in February 2023.