19 May 2022

Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation announces May Kildare fundraising drive

Asking people to ‘Support Local, Donate Local’ to help 20 local families

Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation announces May Kildare fundraising drive

Harry O'Brien (age 5) with mum Maria, dad Denis, and brother Ben (age 2)

The Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation has announced its Kildare fundraising drive asking people to ‘Support Local, Donate Local’ to raise funds to support specialist home nursing care hours for 20 local families supported by Jack & Jill today in the county. 

With so many of its traditional fundraisers still postponed and its Jack & Jill charity shops in Newbridge and Crookstown only recently been given the green light to reopen on May 17 having been closed since January. 

Jack & Jill, which funds and provides home nursing care for 374 families around the country, including 20 in Kildare, has announced an increase this month in the rate of its donation to families from €16 to €18 an hour – the first such increase in 10 years. This increase in the funding offered to families, along with Jack & Jill’s age extension from five to six years, will relieve some of the additional pressure on family carers, particularly with so much local respite cancelled through this COVID-19 pandemic. 

Vital Support

This local Kildare fundraising drive coincides with International Nurses’ Day on May 12. Carmel Doyle, CEO of Jack & Jill, comments: “International Nurses’ Day is the ideal time to recognise and thank the nurses who provide specialist care to Jack & Jill families in Kildare and right across the country. Nurses like Mary Joe Guilfoyle who was Jack & Jill’s first-ever nurse having been persuaded in 1997 by Jonathan Irwin, founder of Jack & Jill, to leave her hospital job. Ever since she has been providing vital support to local families, along with Jack & Jill specialist children’s liaison nurses Saundra Nolan and June Foxton who also cover Kildare.”

The charity, which is based in Johnstown, is urging people to donate what they can, as well as asking local businesses to sign up at with every €18 funding one hour of specialist home nursing care for children locally.

The Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation was set up in 1997 by local couple Jonathan Irwin and Mary Ann O’Brien, founder of Lily O’Brien’s Chocolates. Jonathan and Mary Ann’s son Jack sadly passed away at home in Ballitore at the age of 22 months, having been supported by local nurses and friends. Jack’s home nursing care plan became the blueprint for Jack & Jill which has supported over 2,500 children since then, including 134 children in Co. Kildare. 

Today the charity funds up to 80 hours of nursing care a month for families costing up to €17,280 per family per year. Despite COVID-19, last year the charity funded and delivered over 94,000 hours of care provided to families across the country. Children supported by Jack & Jill have highly-complex medical conditions whose neurodevelopmental issues may include brain injury, severe cerebral palsy or a genetic condition. Their care needs are very high with over 20 pieces of medical equipment typically in the home. There is no waiting list or means test with Jack & Jill and the service operates seven days a week.

Gift of Time

Jack & Jill mum, Maria O’Brien, from Sallins, comments: “Jack & Jill were so quick to support us with Harry. There was no bureaucracy, no fighting for hours and, in our hour of need with Harry, they were there. When Jack & Jill nurses come, it gives me a chance to go off for a walk and be myself because I know he is so well looked after. I know when you become a parent everything changes, but when you become a special needs parent, it’s double. There is also the worry about not having enough time for my other son Ben. It’ so important for us to have that one-to-one interaction with Ben too and we get that time with Jack & Jill support.”

Mary Joe Guilfoyle, Maria’s Jack & Jill nurse, adds: “We have come a long way since those early days in 1997 but what hasn’t changed in all that time is our ongoing commitment to child- and family-centred care that provides specialist and practical help. Families tell me that what they value most from their Jack & Jill nurse is the gift of time. Time to be with their other children, time to go shopping, time to go for a walk, time to sleep. But all the while knowing that their child with a highly complex medical condition is being well cared for, at home.”

Mary Joe Guilfoyle, Jack & Jill nurse

Carmel Doyle, CEO of Jack & Jill, concludes: “Community is at the heart of what we do. Jack & Jill nurses become a key part of the daily care regime for a family in those critical early years from birth to six years of age. Ours is not a service for a week or a weekend but rather an ongoing care commitment and we rely on local donations to keep going. This International Nurses’ Day, we salute these valued health care professionals who provide the vital respite care to the children and families under our wing. We couldn’t do what we do without them.”

For more information on the work of the Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation, visit or follow the charity on Instagram @jackandjillcf, on Twitter @jackandjillcf, and on Facebook @jackandjillfoundation

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