There are certain stories which put life firmly into perspective, and the story of Jacinta O’Toole and the O’Toole family who live in Ballintubber is certainly in that category.
Jacinta, aged 30, passed away suddenly and tragically in January of this year due to a brain aneurysm. Her death left her family, including parents, Helen and Frank, brothers Fintan and Sheridan and sisters, Aishleen, Katie-Anne and Charlotte, devastated. Jacinta also left behind Ethan, her eleven-year-old son, who carries on his mother’s kind-hearted and sensitive traits.
Now Jacinta’s sisters, Aishleen, Katie-Anne and Charlotte are getting ready to run the Dublin City Marathon on October 30th and are launching an official fundraising event, ‘Jacinta’s Smile – Sunshine for siblings of loss’, in honour of her. The launch will take place on Thursday, September 15th in the Bank of Ireland in Castlerea.
Katie-Anne said that Jacinta’s death was a heartbreaking shock: “It was a complete surprise –it came out of nowhere. She was at the house and had a headache. Mummy and Daddy were talking to her and she took one last breath and collapsed in front of them. She was taken to Ballinasloe Hospital but sadly she passed away. We received a small bit of comfort as we decided to donate Jacinta’s organs and as a result two families’ lives have changed for the better.”
To bear one such tragedy is too much for any family, but the O’Toole’s have walked tougher terrain than most.
Their brother Declan unfortunately passed away in 1996, aged 7. Declan’s painfully premature death due to a malignant brain tumour also inspired the sisters’ choice of fundraising.
Katie-Anne said: “We were aged between 3 and 13 when Declan passed away. We knew what it was like to be the ‘non-sick’ child and what it is like to watch your sibling go through treatment whilst sadly feeling helpless as you cannot do anything about it”.
We knew instantly that we wanted to do something for the siblings left behind. We want to enable them have fun, be worry free and acknowledge their sadness without having to talk specifically about the death.”
Katie-Anne gave me some insight into the wide range of emotions and thoughts she and her siblings had when Declan passed. All natural, yet quite confusing and sometimes frightening for young children.
The O’Toole sisters hope to provide some solace for youngsters in similar circumstances in an exciting and friendly environment.
Katie-Anne added: “We are planning a fun day for early next year – a day of adventure, hope and fresh air. We want to keep it active and all about the children. This will give the children an opportunity to enjoy themselves and maybe make new friends and connect with others in the same headspace.”
The funds the sisters raise from running the Dublin Marathon will go towards bringing children who have suffered loss to an adventure centre in the west. It is hoped that a fun-filled day will enable the children to get back to the basics of being a child.
There will be tea and coffee next Thursday, 15th, in the Bank of Ireland in Castlerea between 10 am and 4.30 pm. A raffle will also take place. All are very welcome to support this wonderful cause.
Katie-Anne had the final word: “Jacinta would be really excited and proud about us doing this. We want to let other siblings of loss know that they are not alone, they are understood and that what they’re feeling is completely normal.”
If you would like to support this cause then please email email@example.com or check out the Facebook page Jacinta’s Smile for more information.