School friends complete gruelling charity challenge


Three childhood school friends have completed a gruelling challenge in just two days to raise money for three island charities close to their hearts.

Damien O’Toole, Mark Harvey and Graham Lunn, all 41, teamed up to tackle the 170-mile ‘Way of the Roses’ in aid of the Stroke Association (IOM), Isle of Man Live at Home and Crossroads Care, with Damien’s brother-in-law Ben Derrick, responsible for the essential support car.

The trio, who were in the same year at St Ninian’s High School in Douglas, put on their Stroke Association cycling jerseys and saddled up for the coast-to-coast challenge, setting off from Morecambe in Lancashire and finishing in Bridlington in Yorkshire.

Mark, who works at local accountancy practice Endor Consultants LLC, and Graham, who is CFO for a London based equity firm, decided to support Damien in his quest after his mum suffered a stroke last year – something which had a devastating impact on the family.

‘Stroke is the leading cause of severe disability in the British Isles,’ explained Damien, who is chief accountant with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.

‘Thankfully, my mum came through it but it has left her unable to walk and with complete disability down her left side.

‘It has robbed her of the simple pleasures she holds most dear – playing with her grandchildren, baking and gardening.

‘Dad is her principle carer and my wife and I, along with a few close friends, try to help as much as possible but we are so grateful to the Stroke Foundation, Crossroads Care and the Isle of Man Live at Home Scheme for the essential support they provide.’

Both Damien and his dad, who also worked for the Steam Packet for more than 25 years, were thrilled by the support of the company.

‘This was our way of saying a huge thank you for the fantastic support we and other families receive from these three charities,’ he added.

‘I’m so proud of the inspiring levels of commitment from Mark and Graham and the donations received from family, friends and colleagues, for which we are extremely grateful, were particularly humbling.’

Early indications suggest more than £3,600 has been raised – well above their fundraising target.

Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward said: ‘Many congratulations to Damien, Mark and Graham for their efforts. We were keen to support them and they have raised essential funds for three very worthy charities, who do so much for those in need of support and their carers in the Isle of Man.’

Photographs: The tired but happy trio after completing their journey and a shot of them in action.