Kilkenny family scattered around the world to connect Christmas day by doing the virtual GOAL Mile

Kilkenny family scattered around the world to connect Christmas day by doing the virtual GOAL Mile

The Flanagan family

An Irish family scattered around the world who are unable to travel home for the festive season due to COVID-19 restrictions are to connect in a unique way on Christmas Day by walking a virtual mile together to support the work of humanitarian aid agency GOAL.

Twenty members of the Flanagan family aged from 85 to five years will walk or run a mile at the same time across their various time zones on December 25th to stand in solidarity with vulnerable communities in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East – and to connect as a family at the same time.

The Flanagan family - originally from Kilkenny City – is made up of four siblings, Donal, Niamh, Ronan and Angela, their mum Máirín, partners, children, aunts and in-laws. It has become a tradition for the family in recent years to come together to do a GOAL Mile in Dublin or Kilkenny to support GOAL’s work in 14 countries.  

This year GOAL has announced that due to COVID-19 it’s much-loved annual fundraiser, the GOAL Mile, which sees thousands of people around Ireland walk or jog a mile at 170 locations around Ireland over Christmas, is going virtual. People are being asked to register to do their mile. 

Niamh Flanagan, Assistant Professor in Applied Social Studies in Maynooth University, is the only one of the four siblings who lives in Ireland. She is married to Joe Buckley and they have a son Ross (22) and a daughter Polly (17).

Her brother Donal, an IT Consultant, lives in London with wife Teresa and son Shane. Ronan, a Safety/Risk Consultant, lives in Perth, Australia and is married to Joanne. They have three children, Laura (24), and teenagers Medbh (17) and Oisin (11). And Angela, a Translator and Editor, is married to Hendrik and lives in Cologne, Germany, with their son Isaac aged 5. 

Making up the Flanagan GOAL Mile troupe will be mum Máirín (85) who lives in Kilkenny, her sisters Margaret Carney and Nuala Cuffe, while in-laws Peter Tarleton and wife Nok will join in from Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Said Niamh: “Every Christmas at least some of our family are together to celebrate in Ireland, and in recent years we have built the wonderful tradition of doing a GOAL Mile on Christmas day. It is always a special time when we get out together as a family and do something for others.”

“When it became clear that this year family members would not be able to travel home to Ireland for Christmas due to COVID-19 we had to be creative about how we could carry on the GOAL Mile tradition. We were thrilled to see that GOAL announced the GOAL Mile was going virtually so we hatched a plan!”

The Flanagans will do the mile at 10 am Irish time in their local neighbourhoods on Christmas morning. In Perth it will be 6 pm;  Chiang Mai 5 pm and 11 am in Cologne. The family plan to connect by zoom on their ipads or smart phones as they do the mile together.

“We are very excited about the plan. Instead of us just sitting together in our homes doing a joint zoom call on Christmas Day we will continue the GOAL Mile tradition and connect together as we walk. This is so much more meaningful, and we are also giving back to vulnerable communities at the same time.”

“This has been a challenging year for everyone and so much has changed. While we are disappointed that we won’t be together we know that better times are ahead and we can still bond as a family at this special time by doing the virtual GOAL Mile.”

GOAL board member, Kerry football legend and former Minister of State for the Diaspora, Jimmy Deenihan, said the agency is appealing to Irish people all over the world to follow the lead of the Flanagans to get out to do a mile for GOAL at Christmas.

“Like the Flanagans thousands of Irish won’t be able to travel home to Ireland for the holidays due to COVID-19 restrictions. But they can join their fellow countrymen and women by signing up to do a virtual GOAL Mile.”

“In my time as Minister for the Diaspora I was honoured to meet many Irish people all over the world and I have witnessed at first hand the inspiring contribution they make in all walks of life. The Irish have never been found wanting when it comes to supporting those in our world most in need and are renowned for our generosity.”

GOAL Director of Fundraising, Eamon Sharkey, said: “The Irish community have always been hugely supportive of GOAL’s work, wherever they are around the globe. Our target this Christmas is to get 10,000 people at home and abroad register to do a GOAL mile.”

He added: “The pandemic means the GOAL Mile is more important than ever as we work to rebuild communities shattered by disease, conflict and climate change. Since March GOAL has supported over 17 million people in our thirteen countries in preventing the spread of the virus, rolling out COVID-19 awareness programmes and teaching people the importance of keeping a safe distance, wearing masks, and observing a handwashing regime. We could not do this without the support of Irish people everywhere.”

Last year GOAL helped change the lives of more than six million people in its 13 countries with emergency response, nutrition, health and livelihoods support. In Syria it supported more than one million people displaced due to the ten-year conflict there. 

You can register to do a GOAL Mile at: 

The Flanagan family fundraising page is at 

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