A TEAM from St Catherine’s College, Armagh will be among locals joining a fundraising run in memory of one of the school’s former teachers.
Popular languages teacher Gavin McNaney died last November at the age of 37, having been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia just nine months earlier.
His friend Karl McQuaid plans to run 5km every day during August, culminating in Armagh on September 1 at the weekly Parkrun in the Palace Demesne.
All money raised will go to the charity, Leukaemia and Lymphona NI, and Karl says everyone is welcome to join in and can either walk or run the course.
Within less than a week of the challenge being announced, the target of £2,000 had already been doubled, and that figure is continuing to grow.
Gavin and Karl had been friends from their days in St Patrick’s Grammar School, Armagh. Both went on to study languages at the University of Ulster and then in Liverpool.
Gavin, who taught French and Spanish in St Catherine’s for three years, spoke four languages, loved travel and was a fitness fanatic.
St Catherine’s have also revealed they are holding a fundraising event in September, to coincide with the European Day of Languages, in his memory. The aim is to sponsor two scholarships for students on the French and Spanish exchange trips.
Meanwhile, the school in Dubai where Gavin was teaching when he became ill presented a cup named after him at their prizegiving ceremony in June.
Karl said he had received a huge response since setting up the appeal on JustGiving.
He said: “It is because Gavin was so popular and well-loved … I’ve had past pupils of his and even people going back to our school days messaging me to say they would like to support it and hopefully join me for the final run in Armagh when Gavin’s parents also hope to be there.”
One former pupil wrote on the page: “Gavin taught me for four years and was always my favourite teacher. He inspired me to apply to teaching at university next year! So glad to see money being raised for this cause. RIP Mr McNaney.”
Gavin, whose parents Pat and Nuala live in Armagh, had been teaching in Gems Metropole College in Dubai, where he was head of languages, when he took ill.
Karl, who is from Dungannon but now living in Co Antrim, said: “Gavin was in Goa in India during a school holiday last February when he first started to feel ill.
“He thought he had maybe caught a bug in India and shortly after returning to Dubai he went to the doctor. He had tests and was shocked to be told he had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.”
Karl, also a teacher, said his friend had been expecting to recover. He had undergone a bone marrow transplant and was recovering well when he caught a cold which developed into a lung infection.
“His immune system was suppressed because of the treatment and the bone marrow transplant … In the end it wasn’t leukaemia that beat him, but the common cold. He was one of the strongest and fittest guys I know.
“He was at the gym at least five times every week and was so passionate about keeping fit that even in hospital he lifted weights and used the exercise bike every day.”
He added: “Having discussed the excellent care that Gavin was receiving in Ward C10 of the City Hospital in Belfast, I mentioned to Gavin that one day I would raise money to help those in a similar position to him. Neither of us envisaged that his life would be cut short at such a young age.”
The Armagh leg of the run starts at 9.30am on Saturday, September 1 in the Palace Demesne. People may donate cash on the day or through Karl’s JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/karl-mcquaid.