Olympian Rob Heffernan kicks off World Down Syndrome Day by launching fundraiser for central Cork

Rob Heffernan today launched a fun challenge for the Down Syndrome Center Cork.

The Irish champion walker and Olympian made the announcement on World Down Syndrome Day, with the challenge due to take place this summer.

The Challenge 21 fundraiser invites over 200 participants to walk, jog or run the 21km distance from Haulbowline to Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday June 19 to raise funds to support vital services for children with Down syndrome in Leeside .

The 21km challenge – which will follow the proposed greenway along Cork Harbor through Shanbally, Monsktown, Passage, Rochestown and on to Blackrock – was not chosen at random.

Down syndrome is a genetic condition caused by an extra chromosome, where most babies inherit 23 chromosomes from each parent, for a total of 46 chromosomes. Babies with Down syndrome, however, end up with three chromosomes at position 21.

All funds raised through the fun challenge will go directly to support the Down Syndrome Center Cork, a premier facility based in Forge Hill which provides services to children with Down Syndrome and their families.



Olympian Rob Heffernan with Harry Brassel, Freya Desmond and Joey Corbett launch the 21 Challenge for Down Syndrome Center Cork on World Down Syndrome Day. Photo: Darragh Kane

The center is a registered charity but receives no government funding and depends entirely on the generosity of the public and local businesses to remain in operation.

Commenting on the launch of Challenge 21, elite athlete Rob Heffernan said: “I am delighted to be able to combine my love for activity and all things Cork for the benefit of Down Syndrome Center Cork, which is an organization really fantastic charity.

“I was invited to visit the center last year and have to say I am so impressed with the facilities and services and absolutely amazed at what a group of determined parents can do.

“They receive no government funding and are so passionate about providing the best start in life for their children.

“I hope others will join me that day and support this fundraising effort as best they can!”

Event organizer Cian Desmond, whose daughter Freya uses the services, said: “We are delighted with the support this event has attracted from parents, legend Rob Heffernan, the business community in the broad sense and in particular of our sponsor Green Rebel Marine.

“It’s great to see everyone behind our kids and we’re really looking forward to walking along Cork Harbour.”



Olympian Rob Heffernan with Rebecca, Connolly, Zara Connolly, Sophia, Harry, Orla Brassel, Fiona and Cameron Brett, Freya Desmond and Joey Corbett launch Challenge 21 for Down Syndrome Center Cork on World Down Syndrome Day.  Photo: Darragh Kane
Olympian Rob Heffernan with Rebecca, Connolly, Zara Connolly, Sophia, Harry, Orla Brassel, Fiona and Cameron Brett, Freya Desmond and Joey Corbett launch the 21 challenge for the Down Syndrome Center Cork on World Down Syndrome Day. Photo: Darragh Kane

The Down Syndrome Center in Cork was opened by a group of parents in 2017 who saw the need for a facility in the locality that would provide supports and services to families with young children with Down Syndrome.

It also offers significant support around diagnosis and early intervention deemed essential by those who benefit from it.

Currently, the center has over 120 children receiving services and has seen a significant increase in demand in recent years.

The organizing committee invites anyone interested in joining the event to register before March 27 by searching for Challenge 21 on Eventbrite or using this link.

You can also donate to the event on the same link.

All those who register before this date will be entered into the draw for a weekend for two in a 4-star hotel!

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