Patricia Cooney, from Ballyconnell in Co. Cavan, has been fundraising for Sightsavers since 2003. We chatted with her recently about why she supports Sightsavers and her own very particular method of fundraising.
What motivated you to fundraise for Sightsavers?
The first time I saw an ad for Sightsavers and realised that just a few cents could save the sight of a child, I thought about my own son. When he was only six years old, he lost the sight in one of his eyes from toxocariasis [a rare infection caused by roundworm parasites], so the idea that I can make a difference to another little boy or girl’s life – that I can help them to grow up with their sight – is very important to me.
How have you been fundraising?
I make St Bridget’s crosses [traditional Irish crosses woven from rushes] and bring them to the churches in parishes all around Co Cavan, and sell them in time for St Bridget’s Day, which falls on 1 February each year. Last year I raised nearly €3,000 for Sightsavers.
How long have you been making St Bridget’s crosses?
A lovely nun called Sister Mary Fimber, long dead and gone now, taught me how to make them at the National School in Belturbet, Co. Cavan, many years ago. I’ll continue making crosses to raise money for Sightsavers as long as my arthritis will let me.
Did you grow up in Belturbet?
Yes, it still holds a special place in my heart, even though I’ve been living in Ballyconnell for the past 53 years. Life was very simple when I was growing up. I dearly loved Belturbet and I have very happy memories of my childhood there.
Tell us more about the craft that goes into making St Bridget’s crosses.
I’m not a very crafty person – St Bridget’s Crosses are really all I make. Rushes grow locally around us – they like wet land, and we have lots of that! So I can easily get my hands on the raw materials at no cost. I enjoy making use of the rushes, and making use of my time, all for the good cause of raising funds for Sightsavers. It costs so little to save the sight of a child, it really isn’t much to ask.