COMMUNITY spirit was on full display in Killyclogher and Omagh on Saturday as huge numbers turned out to support the Miles For Matty events.
A significant sum is set to be raised for the Northern Ireland Transplant Association in memory of 22-year-old Matthew Drumm who died on Christmas Eve 2013.
Just a few weeks before what would have been Matthew’s 25th birthday, over 1,700 people wearing specially designed tops took part in cycle, run and walking events to celebrate his life.
Erica Ferguson, chairperson NI Transplant Association, described the event as an “amazing spectacle” and said she was delighted to be associated with the Drumm family and the Miles For Matty campaign.
Following his death, Matthew’s organs provided the gift of life to seven people and Ms Ferguson praised the Drumm family for “finding something positive out of the biggest tragedy of their lives.”
She said, “It was amazing to witness the sense of community shown by everyone in Killyclogher and Omagh. It was marvellous to see that level of support and the awareness raised for organ donation was just unbelievable.
“Seeing everyone taking part in the events gave me a great sense of pride to be associated with the Drumm family.
“The family have suffered a terrible loss. Matthew died tragically young and for them to give back so generously has blown me away. It was wonderful to see just how proud Sean and Ann (Matthew’s parents) were on Saturday that everyone was doing this in memory of their son.”
Ms Ferguson said the fundraising efforts will ultimately provide support for both the families who receive an organ and also the donor families.
“There is a physical side to organ donation, but there is also an emotional side as well,” she said. “I’ve had two transplants and being told you only have 48 hours to live is tough. Then to receive an organ from a stranger who saves your life… that can provoke what’s described as ‘survivor guilt’ which affects you emotionally. You wonder why you were deserving to live and they died.
“The money that comes into the charity will help those people, not just in terms of providing support, but also equipment when necessary. Furthermore, it encourages people to sign the donor register and give the gift of life to others.”
Saturday’s event not just attracted large support from local people, there were also those who travelled from different corners of the world to take part.
These included Matthew’s sisters Karen, who flew home from Newcastle, and Katrina who was a surprise visitor all the way from Australia.
The event was spearheaded by Matthew’s other siblings Kieran and Lee-Ann who both also participated in the cycle.
Their parents Sean and Ann also received a rapturous cheer as they crossed the finishing line after the 5km walk.
Expressing the family’s gratitude, Lee-Ann said, “On behalf of my family, I would like to thank everyone who came to support us on Saturday and remembering Matty Drumm, who would be smiling down on us.
“We wish to express our gratitude to the committee who supported Kieran and myself as we could not have done this without them. Also to Killyclogher and Omagh Gaelic clubs, all the volunteers and amazing people who helped. We are just so overwhelmed by the amount of people who turned up. Matty was a well known lad who was loved by a large group of friends and Saturday just showed how much. We definitely left a lasting legacy.”
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