Former broadcaster and veteran journalist Charlie Bird has vowed to help everyone who is suffering despite being in a dark place psychologically himself after being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.
His name was added to the list of other luminaries who were granted the Freedom of Wicklow, such as Academy Award-winning actor Daniel Day Lewis and world champion boxer Katie Taylor, at a special ceremony on Monday night.
Mr Bird was bestowed with the honour in Wicklow County Council offices, but said those who took part in the Climb with Charlie fundraiser earlier this year were the “true heroes”.
The 73-year-old broadcaster was diagnosed with MND late last year and in April climbed Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo to raise awareness of the disease as part of the Climb With Charlie fundraising drive.
Hundreds of other walks took place as a result of Mr Bird’s appeal on The Late Late Show last December to get involved. To date, almost €3.3 million has been raised for the Motor Neurone Disease Association and suicide awareness charity Pieta.
Speaking from his home in Co Wicklow, Mr Bird – who had his faithful dog Tiger on his lap – said he was accepting the honour not for him but for all of those who took part in his fundraising walk Climb with Charlie.
With the aid of a digital computer voice sitting beside the commissioned bronze sculpture given to him by the council, he said on Twitter: “I want to say I accepted this award on behalf of everyone who supported Climb with Charlie. All of you out there are the true heroes of Climb with Charlie.
“Last night (Monday) was a most memorable one for me, one that I will not forget as long as I am alive. I just wish I could personally honour the thousands and thousands of people who made Climb with Charlie the success it was. All of you are the real heroes.
Mr Bird went on to thank council staff and the members for such a memorable evening, one he said he “will not forget for as long as I’m still alive”.
Last night was a most memorable one for me, one that I will not forget as long as I am alive.
I just wish I could personally honour the thousands and thousands of people who made climbwithcharlie the success it was. All of you are the real heroes. pic.twitter.com/RFhRShfKuh
— Charlie Bird (@charliebird49) September 27, 2022
“Indeed I want to thank all the people of Co Wicklow whose name this honour was bestowed on me and those who made the evening so memorable, my family, my close friends who were all there to partake in the celebration.”
He was given the beautiful bronze work of art which was commissioned for him and made by Michael Calnan at The Forge and Russborough House in west Wicklow.
“I have to be very honest I cried a lot during much of the ceremony but this is harsh reality and one of the side effects of my terminal illness. But I want to say I’m not the only one in this situation. Yes, I’m in a dark place, but I’m not the only one, so as long as I can I want to live and extend the hand of friendship to everyone who is in a dark place,” he added.