Ten children with cancer in Londonderry and Donegal will be the first young people outside of the USA to benefit from a major new project spearheaded by Eglinton cyclist, Joe Barr.
Mr Barr took part in the gruelling Race Across America (RAAM) this year to raise funds to establish Hopecam in Ireland. Hopecam is a charity that provides IT equipment and broadband that allows isolated children with cancer to keep in touch with school and friends.
Len Forkas, the founder of Hopecam, was a successful participant in RAAM 2012, and met Joe Barr near the top of the Rockies, where the Eglinton man had almost died due to severe oxygen deprivation and partial lung collapse.
The cyclist again suffered due to the heat of the desert and altitude this year, but fought on to complete the race. Mr Barr, who celebrated his 55th birthday on the route, came second in the 50-59 year-old category and was greeted by a number of children at the finish line.
Every evening, he took time to phone a child, and said later that he was inspired to carry on after chatting to one youngster who told him: “You have to be brave every day.”
Such was the impact of Mr Barr’s achievement that Governor Martin O’Malley issued a proclamation designating June 23 ‘Race Across America, Hopecam and Team Ireland Day in the State of Maryland’.
Mr Barr is today set to hold talks with BT which have been arranged by Londonderry’s mayor, Brenda Stevenson. During a civic reception hosted in honour of his achievement in RAAM, the mayor pledged to do all she could to help Hopecam access free broadband. He also has a meeting planned with Deutsche Telecom.
“I want to get the broadband for free, and I want to sustainable for free,” said Mr Barr.
After meeting with cancer charities in Donegal on Saturday, Mr Barr said this week: “We hope to get the service to the first ten young people before Christmas. Five children in Derry and five in Donegal will be the first beneficiaries.”
A number of important meetings planned for later this year will hopefully secure sponsorship to ensure that children from all parts of Ireland can access the service as soon as possible. An all-Ireland board will be set up to administer the new charity, which will provide equipment to children identified by specialist teams, including health and social workers.
“Then I can get on with my main role, which is raising funds for it,” said Mr Barr,