Tears of joy as aspiring 'blade runner' Neil (16) does first lap on new leg
There wasn't a dry eye at Santry Stadium when 16-year-old athlete and cancer survivor Neil Hoey did an inaugural lap of the track as an aspiring blade runner.
The Transition Year student from St Aidan's CBS in Artane, north Dublin, lost his right leg to cancer when he was just 10 years old and was fitted with a prosthetic limb. But thanks to the efforts of his athletics coach and history teacher, Alan O'Neill, Neil's future as an aspiring track and field Paralympian looks bright.
Mr O'Neill launched a fundraising campaign last year to buy Neil a transfemoral prosthetic or "blade", made famous by disgraced South African "blade runner" Oscar Pistorius.
It turned into a nationwide fundraising effort after Neil's story was picked up in the national media.
The avid outdoor enthusiast learned he had cancer after he broke his leg on a scouting trip and his doctor discovered a suspicious lump on his leg which had to be amputated below the thigh to prevent the cancer from spreading.
Fortunately, the cancer is in remission and Neil didn't let the use of a prosthetic limb slow him down. He's not only a scout leader and keen kayak enthusiast, the youngster is also one of the youngest members of the Irish Amputee Senior Soccer team.
And because he showed such promise as an athlete, Mr O'Neill vowed to help buy him a running blade - which cost a minimum of €10,000 - and "his eyes just lit up," he said.
That promise came true yesterday when Neil ran for the first time on his new blade after donors not only raised €26,000, but one generous anonymous donor promised to look after him financially for life. The entire school was there to cheer him on as the teen now sets his sights on training as a blade runner in the Paralympics.