From heartbreak to the Himalayas


Noleen Dillon.

From Zumbathons to raffles, Strabane has seen in a fund-raising frenzy recently and Noleen Dillon is the woman behind it all. 

With an initial target of £2,000, Noleen’s Just Giving Page has currently raised £5,000 for Foyle Hospice. Already a volunteer with the charity, she decided 2017 was the year to do something big. 

Faced with the loss of three family members in a short space of time, anyone would have been forgiven for closing the door on the world. But not Noleen, she grabbed life by the horns and decided to embark on a ten day gruelling trek through the Himalayas this April.

“The Foyle Hospice is a charity close to my heart and after seeing their work first hand I wanted to give something back,” she said.” “The hospice were fantastic with my father Charles and shortly after his passing my husband Kieran was diagnosed with cancer. The charity were a great support for me during a difficult time and after losing my hubby I vowed I’d fund-raise throughout my life to try and repay their work and care.

“Volunteering has opened my eyes to how massively under funded they are. The hospice provides essential care and support for families and those at the end of their lives, it’s shocking that they rely almost entirely on fund-raising. So because I’m turning 50 this year, I wanted to go all-out and do something memorable for them.”

For Noleen, her spur-of the-moment decision was akin to an almost cinematic circumstance of fate.

“I had savings put away to paint the house in the summer but the decorators never showed,” she continued. “I’d been looking online at charity treks but it was the self-funding criteria that postponed my ambitions. So at that point I thought, well the money’s there now, I got the laptop out and signed up to the challenge.” 

The trek through the foothills of the Himalayas will see Noleen covering 15km per day, battling various altitudes and temperatures along the way. The local wonder-woman somehow manages time in-between being a mother and volunteer to stick to an unremitting training schedule. “Building my body strength and endurance before I go is crucial. I walk with the Strabane Hillwalkers every Sunday and during the week I’ve Zumba, yoga and boot camps.”  

If the Himalayan footslog isn’t a feat in itself, Noleen is a rookie traveller who has never been further than Brighton. 

“I have to admit I only purchased a passport last year and visiting my son in Brighton is the only time I’ve been on a plane. So it’s safe to say I’m extremely nervous! I’m flying out from Heathrow and I’ve heard all the horror stories about how massive it is. My fear is spending the ten days lost and trekking around Heathrow. But I suppose we all have to do things that scare us. 

“The support I’ve had from the people of Strabane and my personal experiences are the driving force keeping me going. If it wasn’t for that I would never in a million years contemplate this trek.” 

The outpouring of support from the community has also proved overwhelming for Noleen. “Usually I’m quite shy and like to remain under the radar but once the cause gained attention locals came out in force and businesses in the town have been unbelievable. Plus I’ve great children, they’ve had a tough few years but they are an amazing support in all of this. It’s a cause that touches so many people on a personal level and I think that’s why the fund-raising has received such a great response.” 

With a pub quiz at Murphy’s on the Green and raffle at Christy’s Bar still to go, Noleen’s hope is for final funds to reach £6,000.

Forever humble, the inspirational lady takes it all in her stride, downplaying the huge task she’s soon to undertake. For Noleen the Himalayan hike is simply the fulfilment of a promise. 

She explained, “I’ll raise money for Foyle Hospice for as long as humanly possible. I will never be able to repay what they did but I can try. It would be easy for me to lie down, give up and admit defeat. But I think of my brother, dad and husband and how much they would’ve loved to take part in a trek like this. I have to live the life they couldn’t.”

* If you’d like top contribute to Noleen’s fund, donate at

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