Community come together to raise funds for young Leon

By Aideen O'Flaherty

THE annual Run for Rita event will be held virtually this year over four weeks, with participants being encouraged to clock up 100kms each, and all of the money raised will go towards the development of a sensory room for a local boy with autism.

The Run for Rita event, now in its eighth year, is held in memory of Kilnamanagh woman Rita Savage, who passed away in 2008 after battling breast cancer, and raises funds for local causes.

Glenda Curtis with Vanessa and Leon Hughes 1

Glenda Curtis with Leon and Vanessa last year

The event is typically held in Tymon Park every March, and last year it was all set to raise funds for a sensory room for nine-year-old Kilnamanagh boy Leon Hughes.

Leon is non-verbal and has autism and a sensory processing disorder, and sensory rooms offer a variety of soothing activities for children who are on the autism spectrum or have additional needs.

Leon’s parents, Vanessa and Luke, don’t have room for a sensory room in their house, so they planned to purchase a log cabin to put in their back garden, and kit it out with things like bubble tubes, a projector and a sensory bean bag with the funds raised.

However, Run for Rita had to be cancelled at the last minute as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

Glenda Curtis, the Run for Rita organiser and Rita Savage’s daughter, told The Echo: “I had already started the process of organising Run for Rita.

“I had all the posters done and ready to go, and then around Paddy’s Day, Covid hit and the only thing that we could do was cancel the run.

“Everybody found it very disappointing, because everybody seems to look forward to it every year.”

In the meantime, Vanessa and Luke Hughes purchased a log cabin, put in their back garden and painted it, and are hoping that the money raised through the virtual Run for Rita event will enable them to purchase the sensory room equipment.

“I was thinking that we have to do something,” explained Glenda, “because this child is just looking at an empty log cabin out the back, so I decided to push on with a virtual run.”

The virtual Run for Rita event was launched last Sunday, and at the time of going to print it had already raised just over half of the money needed to reach the target of €6,270.

“The community has really gotten behind it, and we’ve already raised over €3,000,” said Glenda. “Leon’s mam and dad are chuffed.”

The Run for Rita – Project Leon Challenge began on January 11 and will end on February 8, and there is no minimum donation required to take part, as participants can sign up for free and donate a sum of their choosing at a later date.

Participants who have made a donation and are logging their distances will be entered into a raffle that will take place when the virtual event ends, and children under 14 can sign up for a 50k challenge and they will be entered into a €100 prize draw for logging their progress.

Registrations and donations are being accepted at Run for Rita, and people can join at any time within the next four weeks.

For further information, visit the Run for Rita Facebook page.

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