Mikie McDonnell, a pharmacy student in Liverpool’s John Moore University, is much the same as any other student his age. Hailing from Rosslare Co. Wexford, he enjoys going out with friends, football, and is a massive UFC and Conor McGregor fan. The difference between Mikie and other students his age, however, is that Mikie has been actively fighting to fund cancer research since he was seventeen.
Cancer is a disease which has affected everyone in some way, shape, or form. Whether it be a friend or family member, we all know someone who has dealt with it. According to cancer.ie every 3 minutes in Ireland someone gets a cancer diagnosis and every hour someone will die from cancer.
Mikie says that he has always had an interest in helping people, and that is what drives him to raise money for the Irish Cancer Society: “I have always felt since childhood that I wanted to help people in need” He said. He believes that cancer is something which affects many people, and it doesn’t discriminate between age, race, or class.
The Irish Cancer society holds a special place in his heart saying: “They have helped my family a lot in the past, so it only feels right to give something back” he says. Another reason behind picking them as his chosen charity is that he believed that although it does amazing work, it is still unrecognised by many. If he were to at the least aware awareness of the great things they do, then it would have been enough.
Mikie has a long history working with charity, having carried out his first charity fundraiser at the age of seventeen. In 2013 he had heard of a charity ten mile run for the Hope and Dream Foundation, which helps children affected by cancer.
He described the event as “tougher than expected!”, but since there was no specific target which has to be reached to take part he believed it a good place to start. He had raised 200 euro for the cause before his run, which is no small feat at the tender age of seventeen.
There were, however, times where he felt like he couldn’t do it, but the thoughts of his contribution to those less fortunate inspired him to do it: “Training and doing the event was a lot harder than expected, but whenever I felt like giving up I thought about what I’m doing it for, and that one single thought was what brought me to the finish line.” He said.
This was only the beginning of Mikie’s charitable efforts to tackle cancer in Ireland. He was a yearly participant of the run, up until last year when he moved to Liverpool for school.
His next target was to climb the Carrauntoohil peak, located in Co. Kerry. After completing it he described it as “The greatest moment of his life”.
Mountain climbing had always been a love of his, but this mountain was special to him. He wanted to make sure that no matter what came at him he’d be prepared for it: “I trained for two months for the climb. I wanted to make sure that as soon as I step foot on the mountain I’m ready for whatever challenge it gives to me.” He says.
Although the climb itself was surely not without challenge, it was all worth it for the beauty he beheld on his way up: “The climb was genuinely amazing. The views, the weather, the beauty of the mountain was something I’ve never experienced before.” He said. The climb to the kilometre-high summit took just over six hours to reach the top.
The real epiphany hit him once he had hit the peak of Carrauntoohil: “As soon as I reached the summit, everything hit me. The training, the mental toughness and everything else involved just hit me all at once. It all seemed worth it.” He said.
For most of us this adventure in and of itself would have been more than enough, but nothing seems to squander Mikie’s insatiable appetite for adventure and philanthropy. Where most of us would be taking a breather and contemplating whether we’d ever make it back down, Mikie had his eyes set on his next target. Mount Kilimanjaro.
“When I was at the summit, all I could think of was that there were higher summits out there. That’s the moment when the idea of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro started to sound like reality.” He said.
Kilimanjaro, however, is no mean feat and is no joke for someone who hasn’t properly trained. The summit of Kilimanjaro, peaking at nearly six kilometres, is a six-day ascent. This leaves no time for dilly-dallying in terms of preparation and mental fortitude.
Mikie is spending five days in the gym, trying to cut down on fat and increase muscle mass. Although he is ahead of his targets, this is only his “light” training.
He also says that’s it’s very important for your mental strength to train in a routine that will match with the daily climb routine. Keeping true to this, as of January he’s been carrying out altitude training to help condition himself.
The target set for his fundraising climb is €5,100, having already collected €2,800 to date. He thanks the charitable nature of people for helping him be so ahead of his target: I held a coffee morning in a local business for my first event, and it was a massive success! My target was €350 and I ended the day with double that! It was amazing to see that even during these tough times people are so charitable.” He said.
Mikie also put his own personal style standards on the line for charity as he shaved his head for he entertainment of others. Like many-a twenty-year-old this was quite the sacrifice, but for the cause that was in it, he did not mind at all.
If you wish to get involved but feel like you don’t where to start, freight not, it can seem like quite the “climb” (apologies for that) but it’s easier than you may think. All you have to do is contact the charity of your choosing and see what options they have for fundraising. They will be more than happy to help and offer assistance, offering flyers and posters to help support any of your would-be events. Take your time, pick a charity you believe in, e-mail them and go from there.
If anyone reading this would like to donate to Mikies fundraiser, they can do so by visiting www.justgiving.com/fundraiser/mikiemcdonnell. If you wish to follow Mikie’s progress, you can do so in Facebook my searching ‘Mikies Kilimanjaro fundraiser.