A young Ballybofey woman has been inspired by her younger sister to conquer 5K a day for the next 21 days in aid of the Donegal branch of Down Syndrome Ireland (DSI).

Lauren Flanagan, from Tircallen, is a contestant in this year’s Miss Donegal competition. She hopes her profile will raise awareness of the charity that has supported her little sister Kayla (8), who lives with Down Syndrome.

World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) is celebrated annually on the 21st of March. DSI’s annual Purple Run in Phoenix Park is also a celebration of World Down Syndrome Day.

Sadly, this year’s run cannot take place as planned due to the pandemic and ongoing restrictions. However, people are running or walking their own Virtual Purple Run (5km or more) anytime during the 21-day run up to this year’s World Down Syndrome Day.

“This year like many others, I have decided to complete this virtually,” Lauren explained.

Lauren Flanagan with beautiful little sister, Kayla.

“I am doing my own form of the Purple Run, calling it ‘5k a Day for DSI’. I will be doing 5km a day for 21 days from the 1st of March until World Down Syndrome Day. I will be posting updates of my progress throughout the month along with some facts about the organisation and Down Syndrome itself.”

DSI provides a range of services and opportunities to its members throughout Ireland, such as Parent links, mother and child groups, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and employment opportunities.

“There are 25 branches throughout Ireland, my family and I are members of our local branch Down Syndrome Donegal and have been since 2012. Each year my family and I like to support DSI whether it’s via crazy sock day or the HB ice cream events.

“This charity is very close to our hearts and has provided so much for my little sister Kayla. She is eight years old and she basically runs our household. She has such a great personality and I want to break any stigmas people may have against the syndrome while also raising money for the much needed services.

“So many of the organisations annual fundraising events have been cancelled this year due to Covid-19 so they need our support now more than ever.”

Eight-year-old Kayla Flanagan

A final year Speech and Language Therapy student in Ulster University, Belfast, Lauren is currently running for Miss Donegal (Miss Ireland).

She is hoping her social media following will result in more awareness and money raised!

“On the final day, I am hoping my family, Kayla, and as many family and friends as I can safely gather will walk the final 5 km together. So, I am searching to spread the word and gather as much awareness as possible within the next month.”

If you would like to support the fundraiser, visit Lauren’s page: https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/11398644_lauren-flanagan-s-page.html