Tullamore Lions Club President, Larry Fleming, discusses the background to the ‘Hooves 4 Hospice’ fundraising project.
Q How did the project come about?
A In 2018, we invited Professor Humphrey O’Connor and others from the Offaly Hospice Foundation to one of our club meetings to discuss the valuable work they are doing in Offaly. They did that and then went on to describe the great need there is for a Level3 hospice in the midlands. We didn’t realise that ours is the only region in Ireland that didn’t have such a hospice and worse still didn’t have plans for one. We didn’t realise either the extent of the disadvantage we are at in not having a Level 3.
Q Can you elaborate on the disadvantage you mentioned?
A By not having a hospice of that type, patients who would benefit most from the type of specialist service such hospices provide must settle for the best that’s available locally at present or seek the specialist service they require in a hospice in another region. That’s not a criticism of the quality of the services provided locally or of the staff who provide them: it is a statement of the fact that the services infrastructure and many of the specialist staff required to provide a service on a par with what is available in other regions are not yet available here.
Q What was the response of the Lions Club?
A One of righteous indignation might be the best way of describing it followed by a question along the lines of what can we do to change that?
When the Offaly Hospice Foundation committed €500,000 towards the Midland Hospice Building Fund we knew what we could do.
Q What was that?
A We can help raise the funds needed to build the Midland Regional Hospice. The Lions Club is a community service organisation founded over forty years ago. We are part of a worldwide network that exists to support charitable causes. The Club has raised nearly €1.5 million since it was formed over forty years ago. The club does not have any overheads. The community we serve has always been most generous in supporting our work.
Q What were the considerations you had in mind in choosing a project?
A Because the need is greater than any we have been involved with previously, we knew we had to be both realistic and ambitious. The hospice will serve counties Longford, Westmeath, Laois and Offaly so we wanted to afford the people of the whole region an opportunity of contributing towards the success of the project. We needed a novel approach so that we wouldn’t be competing with existing projects seeking to raise much-needed funds for worthy causes.
Q Why was ‘Hooves for Hospice’ chosen?
A It hasn’t been done before, as far we know, and the farmers we sounded out about it were all very positive towards the project and the good cause that is hospice.
Q Is the project aimed just at farmers?
A No. We hope the fundraiser will appeal to the entire community because the entire proceeds will go to the building fund of the new Midland Hospice. We will be grateful for financial donations, big and small, from individuals and organisations by way of gifts or sponsorship of the fundraiser.
Q Farmers are the main focus though, are they not?
A Yes, they are. We are asking farmers to donate a young animal that they or a host farmer will rear for 12 to 18 months. When a donated animal is sold, the proceeds will go directly into the hospice building fund. We expect that some farmers will donate and rear an animal, others will donate an animal to be reared by a host farmer and others will act as host farmers willing to rear an animal as their contribution to the cause.
Q Animal health and welfare are important considerations these days. How are they being dealt with?
A We are very aware of that and are putting in place the necessary arrangements that will ensure we meet our obligations in that regard. We have consulted with farmers, experts and representatives of farmers to ensure that good practice is observed. There will be some terms and conditions in place in relation to the hosting of ‘Hooves for Hospice’ animals but they are small in number since the host farmers are already committed to animal health and welfare best practice.
Q Will host farmers be able to get advice and support if issues arise?
A Yes, we recognise the importance of that and will be providing a support service that can be accessed by phone.
Q If the hospice building doesn’t go ahead for whatever reason, what will become of the funds raised through ‘Hooves for Hospice’?
A We’re convinced the hospice will be built but in the unlikely event that it is not, the money raised will be distributed for charitable purposes in the areas where it was raised in consultation and with the approval of the Charities Regulator.
Q Where will the hospice be located?
A The HSE has decided that the hospice will be located in Tullamore, which is the most central location in the region it will serve. It is expected there will be satellite units in Portlaoise, Mullingar, Athlone and Longford.
Q How will the hospice be funded?
A The model used in the case of every other new hospice is that the community it serves raised the cost of building the hospice and the HSE covers the annual running costs. That is what will happen here also. The HSE has offered a suitable serviced site on the campus of the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore. This is a very valuable contribution.
Q How much will it cost to build the hospice?
A That is difficult to estimate until plans are drawn up and approved by the HSE. Hospice buildings are expensive; they need to be attractively designed, equipped to the highest standard to deliver the best possible service in a location that is best suited to delivering end of life care. A figure in the region of €15m is being used as a working estimate.
Q When will the hospice be completed?
A It is too soon to predict that. It is important that the progress made to date, and especially during 2019 is maintained. A fully serviced and very suitable site is available, Offaly Hospice Foundation has committed €500,000 towards the project. We believe that ‘Hooves for Hospice’ has the potential to raise a sizeable sum of money and lead to other worthwhile fundraising projects that will lead to the ambition of having a regional, highest level, hospice in the midlands being realised.