Letterkenny man raises more than $620K ‘Down Under’

A LETTERKENNY man raised more than half a million dollars to help treat and prevent blindness in Third World countries when he ran a marathon blindfolded last weekend.
Mike Toner from Middle Road, Ballyraine, raised $620,000 for the Fred Hollows Foundation in his latest fundraising event in Melbourne on Saturday.
The money will restore the eyesight of over 24,000 people who have been blinded by cataracts disease.
Mike (45) is based in Melbourne where he runs ‘Thick as Thieves’ a touring and events company that has been bringing the best underground DJs to Australia since 2009.
Speaking to the Donegal News this week, Mike said that he was very grateful to family and friends back home in Letterkenny for their donations and support.
The son of Margaret and the late Michael Toner, Mike has two brothers Gavin and Emmet and one sister Louise.
When he first moved to Australia almost twenty years ago Mike worked on the building sites before taking a job in a record store.
While business has been good over the past decade, 2020 was quieter than usual due to coronavirus.
“Things have improved this year and we’ve a very busy summer programme ahead. Australia is open and it’s booming,” he said.
Mike’s company hosts dance events all over Victoria and he brings in a lot of international DJs from the US and Europe. He also helps to co-ordinate their tours across the rest of Australia and New Zealand.
Mike first got the opportunity to see the work the doctors and nurses do for the Fred Hollows Foundation when he travelled to Cambodia to mark his fortieth birthday in 2016.
“I was blown away by the amount of people who had been blinded and were totally dependent on their relatives to help get them around their small, rural villages.
“I saw one older man who liked to go for a run but to do something as simple as a little exercise he needed two people to help him,” he said.
support runner
Earlier this year, Mike joined the Achilles Foundation where he was trained as a sighted guide to act as a support runner to enable people with a vision impairment to enjoy recreational running.
“The idea to run the marathon blindfolded was not only to raise money, but also awareness of the challenges the blind community face,” he explained.
Mike was one of 265 people who took part in the #Quickasthieves2021 running event for the Fred Hollows Foundation last weekend.
“There is absolutely no way I would have finished it without my guide and bulldozer. I started to get incredibly dizzy at about the 24km mark and the last 18k was mentally very tough,” he admitted.
“At $25 to restore the gift of sight, this money ($620,000) will help restore the sight of more than 24,000 people and, to me, that’s the most important thing,” he said.
“The Foundation is remarkable and they do amazing work. Four years ago, a few of us took part in an endurance event to raise money. This year I got 265 people signed up. Part of the deal was that they each had to raise at least $1,000 so I knew that I had more than a quarter of a million dollars before we started. Hopefully we’ll have 500 next year,” he said.
“Together, we’ve now raised more than $1.6 million. I’m so happy that we’re able to play a small part in helping treat and prevent blindness in Third World countries,” he added.
Following a tough winter, Melbourne and Australia has fully reopened its doors for the summer season.
“The Australian government were very supportive, financially, to the business sector throughout Covid. We had a very cold, wet winter out here and we all had to stay within a 10K radius as part of the restrictions. It was tough at times and yet it was great for our training schedule. We were able to start each day with a bit of exercise while it’s also good for your mental health,” he added.
“We’ll enjoy the summer and then get ready for another run this time next year,” he said.

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