A Donegal woman who was given the special chance to get married in the Donegal Hospice before her father passed away is fundraising to give back to the centre.

Sharon Clarke’s father passed away John Boyle 12 days after her wedding, which was held in the small chapel of the Donegal Hospice following a last-minute change of plan.

The much-respected Manor man was just 55 years old when his long battle with cancer came to an end. He was admitted to the Hospice the week after the 2007 Donegal International Rally, an event which he dearly loved taking part in.

Pictured back in 2006 John Boyle and his daughter Sharon line out at No 135 in the Donegal International Rally. Photo By Brian McDaid

Sharon was due to marry her fiancee Andrew in August that year but suddenly decided to change all plans to allow her father to be present for their big day.

On July 3rd, it was decided at midday that the wedding would be held at the Hospice. By 7.30pm that evening the family were ready to celebrate the ceremony with their much-loved father. The groom, Andrew, was collected from Dublin and driven back to Donegal just in time.

Sharon told Donegal Woman how the staff at Donegal Hospice were so accommodating and helpful in arranging the wedding. Everything from flowers, food, candles and the rings were organised in an instant and brought to the centre by local businesses.

“I have great thanks for the Hospice for everything they did for us,” Sharon said. “There are so many services they offer that are so amazing. They make families feel like they are at home.

“The nurses got dad dressed up in a suit, I wheeled him up the corridor and he walked me down the aisle along with my uncle.”

“Daddy died 12 days after the wedding, and for those next 12 days we lived and breathed in the Hospice. Our family were able to stay every night with him and there was never an issue. They are absolutely lovely people.”

For the 10 year anniversary of her father’s death, Sharon has decided to do something big to give back to the centre.

This June 4th, she will be running her first ever marathon in Derry. She will be doing this to remember her father and raise money for Donegal Hospice. (Click here to donate)

Sharon Clarke with her husband Andrew and children Una Ella and as she prepares for the marathon in memory of his father John Photo By Terese Duffy

Sharon and Andrew had another ceremony in St. Columba’s Church in Drumoghill in August 2007. The couple received a blessing to help them deal with the pain of losing John. It was an emotional day for the family, but it marked a turning point in their time of grief.

“I am truly blessed to have a large network of family and friends, who know how to lift you spirits,” Sharon said.

Sharon and Andrew now have three young children, Dean 7, Ella 3 and Úna 2. This year she has been busy training for the event, particularly in the last five months as the start date looms.

“It’s always important never to forget the Hospice. We always try to do a small donation every year. I did a parachute jump and raised around €2,000 or €3,000 before. This year I wanted to do something I’ve never done before. Dad’s motto was ‘try everything once at least.’”

John Boyle at the bonnet of his Ford Escort 11 years ago before his last ever Donegal Rally. Photo By Brian McDaid

“He was my best friend, we had the same passions in life, we both had a love for motorsport which we both participated in, we also loved heading to Downings for long weekend’s water skiing with our family. My Dad was such a sociable person, he loved meeting new people and he had a vast network of close friends.”

“I can never thank the hospice for the love and compassion that they gave my family during those 3 weeks, which were horrific.

“The staff at the hospice make you feel like you are part of their family, they welcome you in with open warm arms, often they were the ones that comforted me when I was finding it difficult to even speak.

“The love and empathy and understanding which they show you is unbelievable to anyone who has never walked that path before it is very hard to understand how they are imprinted in your life, they are the light when you are traveling a very dark road.”

Sharon’s journey to the Walled City Marathon will not be a challenge she takes alone. She will have the support of her family and the encouragement of her training partner Ciaran Callaghan from Drumoghill.

The 26.2 mile run will be in memory of the countless journeys she took as a co-pilot with her dad in the Donegal Rally each June, if you wish to support Sharon and the Donegal Hospice, click here; www.idonate.ie