‘The community wrapped their arms around us and supported us’


An astonishingly successful fundraising campaign has helped to assist Yanna Hartin, a young Gowna woman who sustained life-changing injuries in an accident, writes PAUL FITZPATRICK.

When 18-year-old Yanna Hartin sustained serious injuries in a car accident on her way to work at her summer job in the Farnham Estate hotel, the initial reaction in the wider community was shock. And yet, before that had even subsided, a group of individuals got to work.

A fundraising committee was put in place and at the time of writing, they have banked €327,000. At the end of this month, the fundraising efforts will conclude and it is hoped the final figure will cross the €350,000 mark and beyond.

In its breadth and scope, the success of the fundraiser is probably unprecedented in Co Cavan – especially considering it has all come together in such a short space of time.

Yanna is one of quadruplets; her Dad is Gavin, a farmer and employee of Xtrupak in Gowna and former county footballer and her mother, Lukia, is a native of Cornafean and established her career with Ericsson in Athlone.

At present, Yanna is continuing her recovery at the National Rehabilitation Centre in Dun Laoghaire. Those who know her have been struck by her determined approach and positivity. That and the respect in which the family are held struck a chord with the general public, who embraced the cause and rallied around.

“Her attitude is ‘this happened’, it put her back a year but she’s going to get on with it. If anything, she said, she has the opportunities she had before but she has even more opportunities now because she has met loads of people,” Lukia Hartin told the Anglo-Celt this week.

“I don’t think anything is going to hold her back, this has made her even more determined to achieve all her goals that she’d like to have done anyway.”

The widespread support, among GAA clubs, neighbours, businesses, farming people, community groups and individuals, was overwhelming, Lukia said.

“The community wrapped their arms around us and supported us. Everything and anything you could think of, people did for us.

“Neighbours did the farm work for Gavin for example. He stayed with Yanna night and day for three weeks, he never left her side. The farm had to keep going, you’d be going to sleep at night and there would be tractors going up and down the lane at midnight. Mad stuff.

“The amount of Mass cards and bouquets of flowers we got… Text messages, phone calls. People even gave us tickets for the car park in the Mater, things you wouldn’t even think of.

“We were blown away by the support from the wider community and our extended families on both sides, both here and abroad.

“We won’t forget the kindness and expertise of the emergency services, medical and support staff in the three hospitals (Cavan General, the Mater and Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda) and the National Rehabilitation Centre as well as all the support from various clergy members via prayers, masses etc offered up for Yanna and the family.”

Former Cavan full-back and Cavan Town-based businessman Ciaran Brady took the lead in setting up the fundraising committee.

“Gowna is a very close-knit community and people came together to help in any way we could,” Ciaran says.

“Gavin, Yanna’s father, is a good friend of mine and former teammate. I contacted Cathaldus Hartin, who is Yanna’s uncle and current chairman of the Gowna GAA club, to see how Gavin and Lukia would feel about us putting together a committee to fundraise.

“The purpose of the fundraising was to modify the family home to make it suitable for Yanna and to purchase a vehicle adapted to her needs as well as to offset any potential medical expenses which may arise.

“A committee was put together of people that we hoped would be able to actively contribute.”

In the initial stages, the committee came up with the idea of Yanna’s Four Leaf Clover and A Coffee For Yanna. From there, it took off.

“The response has been phenomenal,” confirmed Brady.

“At our first meeting, we decided on the name. We felt it was critical to have a name and a logo. We decided on Yanna’s Four Leaf Clover – the four leaves stood for love, luck, hope and faith which was appropriate for this cause.

“It started with ‘A Coffee For Yanna’ online, where people were encouraged to donate a fiver or more, the cost of a coffee or two essentially, and to spread the word to three to five of their friends.

“That got it out there and a lot of individual fundraisers followed. There were so many.

“The Tumbling Paddies played in Creegan’s in Bunlahy, creches had pyjama days, there were raffles, there was a race night in Crosskeys, families had mini-fundraisers, there were walks, coffee mornings, a couple of plays in Carrigallen.

“A huge number of people bought into this fundraiser and were very generous.

“The support from GAA clubs and the wider community in Cavan, north Longford, parts of Leitrim was phenomenal.”

One of the first calls Ciaran made was to Colette O’Reilly, who became treasurer of the committee. She was instantly struck by the response when the first online fundraiser was launched.

“I thought it would be a long process, I was amazed by how generous people were and how soon it came together,” says Colette.

“The Coffee For Yanna took off and then people started to run their own fundraisers so we raised a lot of money very, very quickly. The speed of it was amazing, the money came flowing in. Clubs and community groups and people in general were just amazing.

“It would restore your faith, oh my God, that’s for sure.

“I had them all (Hartin siblings) here at playschool. It was lovely to be able to help them out, great to be able to give something back to the community.”

All of the committee’s work was done online; Brady would call a meeting and send out a Zoom link and the members would come together. “The power of social media,” Colette marvels, “is unbelievable.”

After three months in hospital, Yanna made the trip home to Cavan for the county football final on October 22 last. There was a touching scene after the game when, in their hour of victory, the Gowna players made their way across to where the Hartin family were seated to present to her the Oliver Plunkett Cup. If ever one photo could encapsulate the love and care of a close-knit community, it was that one.

“That was a huge day for Yanna to make the trip back to Cavan,” says her mother.

“It was her first day back since the accident so not only was it a big day for the boys (brothers Seanie and Fionn, members of the Gowna team) and the whole club and everything, it was a huge day for Yanna to be able to achieve that.

“We didn’t expect the lads to come over. It was nice of Sean and Fionn and Cian and Eoghan to come over, her brothers and her two cousins, but next thing the whole team started walking over. It was totally unexpected, I don’t think anyone planned it, it just kind of happened organically. It was so lovely.”

In the hours and days that followed, more donations came flooding in. Yanna’s courage and the beautiful gesture from the players resonated with the wider public.

“Yanna is such a positive girl. Her reaction to this has been amazing. Whatever was thrown at her, she has just got on with it,” recalls Colette.

“I think her being at the county final touched people. The fact that she was able to be there just three months after her accident, that took a lot of strength and you could see there were more people making donations on that evening and the next few days.”

The embrace offered by friends and strangers helped Yanna and her family get through a very difficult situation.

Lukia wanted to personally thank everyone who assisted and donated but, she says with a hint of amazement in her voice, “there were just too many”.

“I don’t know what we would have done without all the support that we got. The committee did so much and there were so many events. People came up with so many ideas – I don’t even want to mention any in case I forget some. There were things you wouldn’t think of.

“None of these things happened by accident, the amount of planning and preparation, people parking cars and stewarding, all that kind of thing. It’s just unbelievable how good people have been, they went above and beyond. It’s just overwhelming how good people are.

“It’s not just Gowna, lots of other areas and lots of clubs around fundraised. You couldn’t keep up with everything that was going on.”

The fundraising campaign exceeded all projections and continues to grow. Ciaran Brady stressed that the cut-off date is February 28 and that there is still time to contribute.

“We had hoped to raise between €250,000 and €300,000,” he explains.

“At the moment, there is €327,000 in the iDonate page and the proceeds of a number of fundraisers have still to come in and be added to that figure. There are also a number of people and businesses who have indicated that they intend to contribute towards it as well so we are optimistic that we will get to €350,000.

“Planning permission is currently going through to modify the house. Yanna is currently in the National Rehabilitation Centre in Dun Laoghaire during the week and is home at the weekends.

“The aim is that she will be able to be self-sufficient in the house and in the car and will have independence.”

Yanna’s spirit and resolve, her sunny disposition despite this unfortunate turn of events, is inspirational. Later this year, she hopes to enrol in DCU to study Business.

That’s not to say it is, or will be, easy but her positive mindset has given strength to those around her – and herself.

“She’s still in Dun Laoghaire for another while, she has a couple of medical issues that need to be addressed before she can be discharged. She is doing her driving lessons, she’s playing sports up there, she’s playing wheelchair rugby and basketball,” says Lukia.

“She was kayaking before, we are very close to the lake here in Gowna so she’s hoping to get back to that. Canoeing Ireland were up with her showing her how to do the transfers so hopefully she’ll be able to get back out on the lake.

“On one hand you’re devastated by what happened and on the other hand, you’re delighted that she’s still here and she’s very much herself and she’s very determined to get on with life.

“There are days you wake up and think ‘God, has this actually happened?’ and there are other days when you think ‘this is the new normal’.

“You have to hand it to Yanna, she’s really getting on with it and from the very start she has been saying that she is still going to do everything she was always going to do, she is going to go to college and she is going to travel, she is just going to do it in a chair.

“She’s very articulate, she would be very bright. She’s going to be fine. It gives us great heart.”

If anybody would like to donate to this worthy cause there is still time. Log on to www.idonate.ie/crowdfunder/Yannasfourleafclover, contact any committee member or email yannasfourleafclover@gmail.com for more information.

The cut-off date for donations to the Yanna’s Four-Leaf Clover campaign is February 28.

Main pic: From left: Ciaran Brady, chairman of the fundraising committee; Gavin and Lukia Hartin (Yanna Hartin’s parents); Cathaldus Hartin, secretary of the fundraising committee and Yanna’s uncle. PHOTO: GERRY MOONEY/SUNDAY INDEPENDENT