He has lived in Letterkenny for all forty years of his life. He has also lived with the congenital spinal defect of Spina Bifida.
For Frank Larkin, he would live nowhere else. “I was born and grew up in Letterkenny and wouldn’t want to be anywhere but here.”
And when he reflects on a condition that has confined him to a wheelchair, he is equally pragmatic. “I know no other way. It’s just second nature to me now. I’m very lucky in that I never had to adapt to it. It’s something I’ve had all my life.”
Vice-chairman of the Donegal branch of Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Ireland, he is also a committee member of the Donegal Centre for Independent Living. Consequently when he started contemplating on what he could do, and do differently, to mark his pending 40th birthday, both organisations were at the back of his mind. They moved to the forefront when he decided at the start of the year to host a birthday celebration which will divide proceeds between the respective organisations.
That function will take place in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Letterkenny on Friday night week, July 8th, featuring an auction with a hugely impressive array of items on offer, along with a raffle and an opportunity for patrons to donate to those worthiest of causes. Signed football jersyes, hotel breaks, tickets for the Ireland and Slovakia European Championships qualifier, and a ride in a helicopter are among the list of offers up for grabs.
“I suppose I started thinking about what I could do for my 40th about two years ago and finally came up with this. And since January last my wife, Pauline, and I have been working hard to put things in place. It’s involved a lot of letters, e-mails and phone calls and a lot of following up.”
Born on July 1st, 1971 - not a particularly memorable year for a Liverpool F.C. fan as they lost 2-1 to Arsenal in the famous ‘Charlie George prone on the pitch’ F.A. Cup Final - Frank was the third eldest offspring to Frank and Brighdin Larkin, then of Lower Main Street.
“There’s been a lot of changes in Letterkenny since then obviously - it’s unrecognisable in fact. The year Pauline and myself got married, 2002, my brother Gareth was home from Florida and couldn’t believe the differences. And I’m sure everybody who comes home after a spell away sees it the same way.”
Frank also notes some changes for the better when it comes to facilities and access for the disabled. “There’s still a long way to go but there have been improvements over the past few years and for someone like myself, it’s been encouraging to see.
“When you’re disabled, you have to plan everything ahead before you go out anywhere. If you’re going to a restaurant you have to make sure it has the proper access and if it hasn’t, you just go somewhere else. It’s not just a matter of saying, we’ll go there. you always have to check ahead.”
His involvement in organisations such as the Donegal Centre for Independent Living and the local branch of Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Ireland have offered him further insights into the problems associated with disability and the needs of both. “I’ve seen the great work that can be done with limited resources and when I was thinking about how to mark the birthday, I decided it would be a great opportunity to raise funds for both of them.
“It’s up to people like me to enhance those organisations in the best way we can and the charity birthday event will certainly help. I’ve already had a great response to it and am hoping for a good turnout.”
He has sent out invitations for the event but stresses that everybody is welcome. “All I would do is appeal for people to contact me beforehand so that I can gauge the numbers for the buffet on the night.”
Music will be by Hugo & Off The Kuff and, apart from the auction, there’ll also be a raffle. Donations will be accepted in addition.
Frank’s interest in local politics persuaded him to bid for a seat on Letterkenny Town Council in the Local Elections of 2009 on a Fine Gael ticket. He did well but not well enough to claim one of the nine seats. So would he run again?
“I don’t know. I haven’t ruled it in and I haven’t ruled it out. It’s not easy going around knocking on every door looking for votes but I’ll have to see.”
Some votes you don’t have to go knocking for, of course, and his parents and siblings - they include Linda (Fogarty), Sharon (McLaughlin), Louise (Moriarty), Geraldine (Breen), Olga, Paul and Gareth - will be rallying around to help the cause during his forthcoming charity night.
It begins at 7.30 p.m. and further information on it can be had by contacting Frank on his mobile at 087-7405617 or by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org