Retired Irish broadcaster Charlie Bird said he was touched by the response to his charitable rise after reaching the top to acclaim from family and friends.
The former chief correspondent for RTE, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease last year, has set his sights on climbing the summit of Croagh Patrick in County Mayo.
His challenge captured the public’s imagination and thousands completed their own ‘Climb with Charlie’ events across Ireland and further afield on Saturday. Climbs have been organized as far as the United States, Australia, South Africa and Spain.
The campaign has now raised over €1 million for the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and mental health charity Pieta.
Bird, 72, raised his climbing stick in triumph as he reached the top.
Hundreds of people joined him on Saturday morning to climb a mountain known as the Reek.
Among them were host of RTE’s flagship The Late Late Show Ryan Tubridy, singer Daniel O’Donnell and former champion boxer Barry McGuigan.
Bird was accompanied by his wife Claire and daughters Orla and Neasa.
“I am truly touched and inspired that so many thousands of people have participated in Climb with Charlie events around the world,” he said.
“I want to thank people across the country for their incredible support throughout this journey.
“All generous donations will go to the two charities close to my heart. This is an incredible gesture of support for me and my family.
“Throughout this campaign, we have had the support of so many great people and organizations, and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.
“I would also like to give special thanks to the Defense Forces, An Garda Siochana, Mayo Mountain Rescue, the Order of Malta and all of our local volunteers for making our ascent today possible.”
Bird planned to light five candles in the small chapel at the top of the mountain – one for her friend and high profile campaigner for women battling cervical cancer Vicky Phelan; one for each person diagnosed with a terminal illness; one for those experiencing mental health challenges; one for all those involved in the fight against Covid-19; and a last candle for the Ukrainian people.
Irish President Michael D Higgins was among those who paid tribute to Bird’s courage and determination.
Hailing him as an inspiration, he said: ‘Charlie’s strength and dignity over the past few months has been a real inspiration to people across Ireland and beyond.’
In a tweet to Bird, Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin added: “Wonderful to see the money raised from your ascent of Croagh Patrick – I know the whole country is right behind you every step of the way!
The Climb with Charlie fundraising page will remain open for donations for the next three months. See www.climbwithcharlie.ie