An adventure of a lifetime awaits four determined Donegal people this summer.

Four volunteers from Donegal have set their sights on climbing Kilimanjaro – the highest free standing mountain in the world – to raise money for Down Syndrome Ireland. 

Charlie McNulty and Martin O’Boyle from Donegal Town, Alison Sweeney from Dungloe and Erin Pyper from Ramelton are all part of the 18-strong team from across Ireland who are taking on the challenge on 1st August. 

Speaking to Donegal Woman, Alison and Erin, who both have family members with Down Syndrome, said the cause is close to their hearts.

Sisters Lily and Erin Pyper

Erin Pyper (19) signed up for the fundraiser because she always dreamt of climbing the 5,895m African mountain and she loves doing things out of the ordinary.

Erin’s youngest singer Lily (11) was born with Down Syndrome and with a hole in her heart. Lily spent the first year of her life in Crumlin Hospital. Her parents and family received such great support from Down Syndrome Ireland that Erin wanted to give back.

Now, Lily is a healthy young schoolgirl who is ‘full of beans’, according to her sister. She’s a very popular and funny girl who loves swimming and horse riding. 

Lily Pyper (11) out Alpaca trekking with Wild Alpaca Way in Malin

Lily’s influence on her family and friends is what is driving Erin on in her preparations for the climb. 

“Lily benefits a lot from Donegal Down Syndrome and this climb is for Down Syndrome Ireland but obviously it will benefit locally,” Erin said.

Another volunteer looking forward to the climb is Alison Sweeney, who works as an Occupational Therapist in Crumlin Children’s Hospital.

Alison Sweeney from Dungloe

Alison’s nephew Simon (6) has Down Syndrome and she was inspired by him, despite having no mountain climbing experience.

Alison said: “This 12-day itinerary includes seven days of walking on the Machame trail, the most scenic route to the summit. The Kilimanjaro climb incorporates seven days on the mountain which allows for great acclimatisation and maximises chances of a successful summit attempt.”

Alison Sweeney was inspired by her nephew, Simon

The ‘Team 21’ fundraiser has already generated €12,550 in donations for Donegal Syndrome Ireland.

Locally, the volunteers are hosting fundraisers in their towns and some exciting events are in the pipeline.

Martin and Charlie from Donegal Town are also taking on the challenge

Martin and Charlie held a successful Bazaar in The Abbey Hotel on 15th February, while Erin had Letterkenny flipping out for a Pancake Day in Sonder.

Alison has lined up a bucket collection in SuperValu Dungloe on Easter Saturday April 11th. 

Also this Easter, Alison and Erin are organising a family fun day at Rathmullan House on 5th April. Details to be announced soon. 

All support for all fundraisers will be greatly appreciated by this team, as they break in their boots and collect donations for a mighty challenge for an important cause.

Visit the Team 21 fundraising page here:

Visit Erin Pyper’s fundraising page here:

Visit Alison Sweeney’s fundraising page here: