Family ‘cannot believe support’ for sisters’ dream of independence

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A NEW START: From left; Kathleen (mother) and Aoibheann Mitchell, Deputy Noel Grealish (Ind), Mairead Mitchell, Ciarán Hayes (CEO, Sligo County Coiuncil), Hilary Mitchell (father). Photo by Michael McGurrin

September 2017 seems like a very distant memory for the Mitchell family, and in particular sisters Mairead and Aoibheann. That was the beginning of a mammoth fundraising effort to raise the necessary capital – €242,500 – to build a facility where they could live independently.

Both women, from Coolera in Sligo, suffer from a rare generic disease known as Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP).

Mairead and Aoibheann began to show symptoms in their late teens. At first they noticed themselves dragging their legs and then they became more prone to falls.

In September of this year, the Mitchell family launched a campaign to raise funds to build two purpose built housing units on a site adjacent to the family home.

The Sligo Weekender first reported on the story in September and now the Mitchell family are able to reap the rewards of a huge and innovative fundraising effort.

“At the time [in September] we were so vulnerable. Everything was alien to us and within a a few weeks of going public [the fundraising campaign] took legs,”
Kathleen Mitchell, Aoibheann and Mairead’s mother told the Sligo Weekender.

Kathleen said that the family “cannot believe the support we got from Coolera, Sligo and the whole country.”

Back in September, she concedes that the family felt they had a “huge mountain to climb” to raise the funds needed but through different events organised here in Sligo and in Kathleen’s home of Westport, the project has gotten over the line.

“We are in a good place now. There was so much good will for us and people were so generous and kind,” Kathleen said.

The two purpose build units have, according to Kathleen been “future proofed” for Mairead and Aoibheann’s needs.

“It is probably as good an example of disabled housing to be found in Ireland,” she said.

Kathleen paid tribute to Ciaran Hayes, CEO of Sligo County Council, for his help as well as Galway Independent TD Noel Grealish who were both present for the opening
of the Mitchell Sister’s new homes at the weekend. She also thanked Kilcawley Construction and occupational therapist Sinead Duffy.

“It goes without saying that we want to thank the communities of Sligo, Westport and beyond. Without their help, we would not be where we are now,” she added.

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