Cathy Keighery, Jack and Jill's nurse liaison manager for Westmeath.

66 families in Westmeath helped by Jack and Jill

The Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation recently marked a significant milestone, announcing it has supported 3,000 families since it was set up by its pioneering founders, Jonathan Irwin and Mary Ann O’Brien, 27 years ago. This figure includes 66 children who have been cared for by the charity in County Westmeath since its inception in 1997.

The organisation, which currently supports 10 children and their families across Westmeath, funds and provides in-home nursing care and respite support to families caring for children, up to the age of six, with neurodevelopmental delay associated with a severe cognitive delay.

This may include children with brain injury, a genetic diagnosis, cerebral palsy, and undiagnosed conditions. Another key part of the service is end-of-life-care for all children up to the age of six, irrespective of diagnosis.

Having experienced the challenges of caring for their son Jack at home with the help of local nurses until he passed away at the age of 22 months, Mary Ann and Jonathan vowed that no parents should have to walk this difficult care journey alone. Jack’s home nursing care plan became the blueprint for 3,000 children who have since been supported by Jack and Jill.

The magnitude of this landmark moment is amplified by the recent loss of Jonathan in December 2023.

Nurse liaison manager for County Westmeath Cathy Keighery said: “I am very proud of the role I have played in supporting some of the 66 children and their families who have received care from Jack and Jill over the past 27 years across County Westmeath. For so many, Jack and Jill has been, and is still, a lifeline and we are honoured to continue Jonathan’s legacy in supporting families on their terms, with no means test, no waiting list and no red tape. I am also extremely grateful to the many families and volunteers from all across Westmeath who, over the years, have raised vital funds to help us to keep providing this vital service.

“We really appreciate the lengths the people of Westmeath go to keep supporting local Jack and Jill families in their communities. Whether it’s holding a bake sale, doing a sea swim, taking on our abseil challenge, shopping in our charity boutique in Athlone or making a corporate donation; all support is hugely welcome.”

Mary Ann O’Brien, who co-founded Jack and Jill with her husband Jonathan Irwin in their son Jack’s name, commented: “This is such a bittersweet moment. Jonathan would have revelled in this milestone and in the impact of Jack’s legacy in helping so many families. But I have no doubt that he would have also availed of the opportunity to call on corporates and anyone who wants to make a meaningful contribution across Westmeath to support Jack and Jill. I’m proud to carry on the mantle and to keep supporting these wonderful families, because I know too well, the difference it can make.”