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Laois woman to the fore as ‘StepTember’ challenge raises over €100,000 for DEBRA Ireland

Trisha Lewis and Emma Fogarty Photo: Michael Scully.

A 10,000-steps-a-day challenge led by a top social media star who was inspired by a Laois woman has smashed the €100,000 barrier for a charity – more than triple its target.

Trisha Lewis pounded the streets of her native Limerick, along with 1,100 others across Ireland, in one of the biggest fundraisers in Debra Ireland’s history.

The cash raised during the month-long StepTember Challenge will fund vital research, nurse and family care for the charity, which supports 300 people living with horrific skin disease epidermolysis bullosa (EB), and their families.

Sufferers’ skin blisters at the slightest touch, meaning painful bandaging has to be applied every 48 hours – and sometimes daily.

Instagram hit Trisha became a Debra ambassador after meeting Abbeyleix, Laois woman Emma Fogarty, 37, who battles EB and is also unable to walk since losing her left leg two years ago.

She has to undergo excruciating bandage changes to manage her condition – also known as Butterfly Skin.

Trisha said: “I’m really honoured to know her and be friends with her.

“I witnessed Emma’s bandage change six weeks ago and I will never forget seeing the wounds. I will never forget her screaming in pain and then moments later, cracking a joke with me. I now know a superhero.

“I didn’t realise how difficult it would be to complete the steps but when I got near the finish line, I felt no matter how tough it got, I knew I was doing it for anyone who suffers with EB.

“The funds raised were amazing. We don’t know if EB is in anyone’s future – many people were not aware of the charity or the condition and now they are all behind it.

“People have been overwhelmingly supportive, some even offered to do my steps for me.”

Emma described public support for the fundraiser as “amazing”.

“It will make a big difference for patient support and for people living with this awful condition – and for future patients,” she said.

“Research is a big thing; even a new medication or bandage, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a cure, so these funds will go a long way.

“I’m so proud of Trisha. I would have loved nothing more than to do the steps myself but I can’t. She and everyone else who took part have blown this out of the water and hopefully this will grow into a bigger, annual event.”

A total of €22,000 was raised through the €20 registration fee for StepTember – with a further €89,800 via an idonate.ie page taking the total so far to €111,800. The initial target was €30,000.

“This is the largest number of participants we’ve ever had for a single fundraiser,” said Jimmy Fearon, Debra Ireland CEO.

“StepTember was also about awareness, as the more people learn about EB, the more empathy, kindness and compassion is out there as a result.

“As well as raising crucial funding, it was about communicating the message about EB, which is just as important.”

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.