Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Rathowen friends scaling ten peaks to raise funds for mental health

A group of long-time friends from Rathowen are scaling ten peaks throughout Ireland to raise funds for Irish mental health charity, A Lust For Life.

Andy Whitney, Marty Connaughton, Darren Grimes and Alan Maguire form the core group that are stepping up to the mental health challenge. They are joined by friends, family and hiking enthusiasts on each climb. The quartet decided to organise the fundraiser as winter starts to roll in and people are more likely to carry heavy clouds on dark days.

“Coming into the end of the season, everybody is slowing down, coming into that dark period in the year and winter is coming up,” Andy told Topic.

Inspired to do something to help those struggling with their mental health, Andy suggested that the group should come together to do something “purposeful and worthwhile”. They chose to focus on young people’s mental health by raising funds for A Lust For Life. The mental health charity offers a free early prevention mental health schools programme.

Andy, Marty, Darren and Alan scaled Croagh Patrick in Mayo to kick off the campaign in October 2023. Since then, they have climbed the Sugarloaf mountains in Wicklow, the Stairway to Heaven in Fermanagh, Sliabh Liag in Donegal, Benbulbin in Sligo, Mount Leinster in Carlow and Mount Brandon in Kerry. Next up for the Rathowen crew is Mount Errigal in Donegal followed by Sliadh Donard in Down. They will conclude the campaign atop Carrauntoohil in Kerry on 28 September.

‘We wanted this to be tough’

The group are zig-zagging across the country as part of the campaign which includes some of Ireland’s most arduous climbs. It’s no easy ride for the long-time friends and those who join them but that’s exactly the way they want it.

“We recognise that people who have mental health issues are struggling and we wanted this to be tough. We wanted people to see that we were making an effort by bringing this through over a 12-month period,” said Andy.

Marty said “one or two wasn’t good enough” and added that they wanted to push themselves. The group chose the mountain climbing as it resembles the uphill struggle people dealing with mental health issues face. Alan said the climbs also highlight how beneficial exercise is for mental health.

“If you’re suffering with mental health, being involved in physical activities does help you an awful lot. If I’m fairly down, go for half an hour of a walk and feel an awful lot better,” said Alan.


Camaraderie is at the heart of the campaign as each group of hikers for every mountain tackle the challenge together. Marty explained that those who accompany them get a great sense of achievement when they reach the summit. Darren added that the path to the top is also a great source of enjoyment.

“The morning of the climb you’re just mad to get going. Once you’re on the climb you’re chatting away and helping each other through it,” said Darren.

The group is steadily climbing towards their €5,000 goal and have raised just over €1,400 so far. Andy encouraged anyone that is interested to get involved and join them on their remaining peaks.

“People that want to join us are more than welcome to join us on the climbs,” said Andy.

Marty encouraged people to donate towards the cause as the money will be used to help a young person in need. The Rathowen man said young people need support with the numerous unforeseen challenges they face in the modern world.

“Everyone knows how hard it is in school. You can only imagine what it’s like nowadays. Maybe they need it more than we might have needed it. It’s really tough. Social media and all of this kind of thing that goes on with bullying. Maybe it might be a boost to some child to give a bit of help in secondary school. That’s as good a reason to give them help as anything. It’s not for us,” he said.

You can support the four men here

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