CHARLIE BIRD has vowed to “help anyone who needs help” while he still can, refusing to let his deteriorating health stop him from “reaching out the hand of friendship” while spending a Darkness in Co Wicklow into Light Walk.
The former RTÉ broadcaster, 72, will form an important part of the Pieta fundraiser and will raise vital donations for mental health by taking part in the walk in Bray tomorrow morning.
“When I was asked about a month ago to do the Darkness into Light Walk, I promised myself I would go and do it,” he said Independent.ie.
“Yes, things are very hard for me, but they are hard for so many other people and we have to reach out to them the hand of kindness and friendship.
“I will not hide from myself what is going on in my life.”
The Bray event is organized this year by the Bray Lions Club. This is the first time it has been possible to hold the Darkness into Light Walk in person since the pandemic. Donations raised by the Pieta charity help provide life-saving services to people in suicidal situations and to those left behind by suicide.
It returns with organized hikes in over 17 countries on five continents, beginning in the dark at sunrise and continuing until dawn.
The latest figures show that the 24/7 Pieta Helpline received almost 100,000 calls and texts in 2021 alone – almost 2,000 emergency calls and texts per week.
Last month, Mr Bird climbed Croagh Patrick for his Climb with Charlie event to raise money for Pieta and the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association after being diagnosed with bulbar motion neuron disease. The increase rose to almost 2.75 million euros.
Since then, Mr. Bird’s health has deteriorated.
“Almost five weeks ago I was physically able to climb Croagh Patrick. People see me walking outside all the time and tell me I look great, but the truth is that belies how I’m physically in other areas,” he said, adding that his voice is “almost completely gone.” may be.
His swallowing, which was causing him problems even before his diagnosis in October, has meanwhile gotten even worse “in the last few weeks”. He posted an update on Twitter saying that sitting down to eat “is turning into a nightmare.”
“I never know when I’m going to have a really bad coughing fit,” he said Independent.ieAnswering questions via email.
“So while I can still walk, to be honest, my motor neuron is getting worse and worse.
“But I’m still trying to keep functioning and the Darkness into Light Walk for Pieta is very important to me.”
He said he understands that there are people who “have both emotional and physical challenges every day.”
“I understand that many people are in a dark place emotionally and we need to make sure they have critical help and support, and that’s why Pieta’s work is so important.”
Mr Bird also revealed that another “terrible side effect” of his illness is that he can start crying at any time.
“Especially during the climb of Coagh Patrick I got very emotional on many occasions and just couldn’t hold back the tears,” he said.
“And the truth is, it still happens to me now. Sometimes I go for a walk and people tell me what a great person I climbed the Reek and it can make me cry.
“But while I can, I will help anyone who needs help.”
Mr Bird admitted that he “faces an uncertain future, not knowing how much longer I will survive”.
However, the success of his Croagh Patrick fundraiser has left him totally encouraged, adding, “Walking with Pieta will uplift me even more.”
And he keeps his awareness of others going through difficulties in life even as he faces his own struggles.
“You never know what the person standing next to you is going through. We must reach out and always be ready to extend the hand of friendship,” he said.
“No matter what I face now, the most important thing for me is to continue to extend that hand of friendship.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/darkness-into-light-charlie-bird-says-while-i-still-can-i-am-going-to-help-anyone-who-needs-help-41621070.html Darkness into Light: Charlie Bird Says “While I Can, I’ll Help Anyone Who Needs Help”