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Connacht Rugby stars line out in support of Jack and Jill’s campaign

Connacht Rugby’s newly-appointed captain Jack Carty is used to the heat of battle – but last week he met his match in a mighty three-year-old who has been fighting every day since birth.

Jack – and his teammates Gavin Thornbury and Tom Farrell – were showing their support for the annual big fundraiser for the Jack and Jill Children’s Charity, to help families with the care of their seriously ill children in their own homes.

And that’s how they met three-year-old Lilly Parackal from Roscam, who is one of 412 children currently availing of home nursing care by Jack and Jill.

Together, they kicked off the eighth annual Up the Hill campaign, which asks members of the public to climb or walk a local hill in solidarity with families across the country currently in need of home nursing care or respite from Jack and Jill.

Lilly Parackal spent much of her first year in hospital after it was discovered she had a Chromosome 2 imbalance. This causes developmental delay, heart and lung problems, and means Lilly needs to be tube-fed.

When she finally came home, aged one, the family received the support of a Jack and Jill nurse to help with Lilly’s full-time care at home, and continue to receive home nursing care today.

“Our Jack and Jill nurse gives us back time to spend with our other children, time where we know Lilly is in good, capable hands and we don’t have to worry. We can just switch off and relax for those hours knowing she is being cared for,” said her mum Edel.

“My parents have passed away, and my husband’s parents are in India, so we don’t have grandparents we can call on to help, so we are very much reliant on the nurses to get a break,” she added”

Jack Carty, who is the Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation ambassador plans to undertake his own Up the Hill for Jack and Jill challenge this October.

“I feel incredibly fortunate that rugby has given me the opportunity to meet with families receiving vital home nursing care from Jack and Jill,” he said.

“I’m planning to go Up the Hill myself this October and am calling on members of the public to do the same and join me in raising crucial funds for families in need across the country,” he added.

Jack and Jill was set up by two pioneering parents – Mary Ann O’Brien and Jonathan Irwin – 25 years ago in 1997. They had been caring for their son Jack at home in Kildare with the help of local nurses, until he passed away at the age of 22 months.

Mary Ann and Jonathan vowed that no parent should have to walk this difficult care journey alone, and Jack’s home nursing care plan became the blueprint for over 2,700 children who have been supported by Jack and Jill since then.

The charity provides specialist in-home nursing care and respite support for children with complex medical conditions, up to the age of six years.

This includes children who may have a brain injury, cerebral palsy, a genetic diagnosis or other undiagnosed condition, and who, as a result, may not be able to walk or talk, may be tube-fed or oxygen-dependent.

Another key part of the service is end-of-life care at home for all children up to the age of six, irrespective of diagnosis.

Every day can be an uphill challenge for Jack and Jill families across Ireland and so Up the Hill for Jack and Jill is a way for everyone to show support for the 412 families currently under the charity’s care – the highest number ever availing of its services.

Jack and Jill CEO Carmel Doyle acknowledged that, every year, it’s an uphill challenge to raise the money they require to provide the charity’s service.

But she said: “like the families we support, we just keep going up that hill, thanks to a gentle push by people who donate knowing the difference their support means to local children.”

Every €18 raised funds one hour of in-home nursing support, allowing Jack and Jill parents to grab a break or tend to one of the many other things they can’t always get to – knowing that their child is being well cared for at home.

There are just three simple steps to help – first, register for just €18 per person at, which will support one hour of specialist in-home nursing care for a local Jack and Jill family. Your pack will include a colourful, eco-friendly, Up the Hill banner.

Then choose your hill – and then rope in some friends or family or colleagues to join you – and take a photo with your Up the Hill banner and tag Jack and Jill on social media with #UptheHill22 so everyone can see you!

(Photo: Lilly Parackal with Jack Carty, Captain Connacht Rugby team & Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation ambassador with teammates Gavin Thornbury and Tom Farrell in Rinville Park)

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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