We are very sad to announce the death of Jonathan Irwin, our wonderful brave and kind Founder of the Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation, who passed away on Sunday, December 10th, after a short illness.
Jonathan (82) has led a wonderful life that has touched and supported so many families and he never tired of helping others, right up until the end.
Jonathan is survived by his wife Mary Ann O’Brien and their children Lily, Phonsie, Molly and predeceased by sons Jack and John; he is also sadly missed by his first wife Mikaela and their sons Pirate, Jago, Luke and predeceased by their son Sam. He was so very proud of his grandchildren Otis, Violet, Iris and Xanthia.
Jonathan turned his grief and his vision into support for others. “What else can I do?” he’d often say.
That vision became a reality of a home nursing care model in his son Jack’s name that has supported 2,964 children across the country over the last 26 years and counting, without any means test, red tape or waiting list.
Jonathan Irwin was charisma personified, he was our Chief Fundraiser, our Chief Ambassador, who had true grit, charm and compassion in spades. From an Anglo-Irish background of actors and academics, this Eton educated, Trinity drop-out had what he himself called “a glittering career” in several roles.
Bloodstock agent, auction house boss, announcer, publisher, racecourse executive and more. He worked for BBA Ireland, The Turf Club and Goffs – where he dreamt up and introduced the Cartier Million, Europe’s Richest race and the first IR£1 million sports event in Europe. He was also involved in Dublin International Sports Council and the Special Olympics and, more recently, the ‘Horses of Hope’ Equine Centre at Castlerea Prison.
However, none of these roles, he said, was more challenging or rewarding than his role with Jack and Jill, where he advocated on behalf of family carers with all his might.
Jonathan won many awards over the years including Irish and Global Fundraiser of the Year, PR Excellence Award, a People of the Year Award and he was made Fellow of the Faculty of Paediatrics and received a Knighthood of St Lazarus. But, for this brilliant storyteller, the best reward was the feedback from the families about the difference that Jack and Jill made.
Never one to retire, he always stayed in touch, and we were very glad to have him at our recent staff Strategy Day in Kilkenny where he received a standing ovation. When the shock waves subside a little, we will share our memories of Jonathan and the many tributes already rolling in.
He was unique. Articulate, charismatic, debonair, persuasive, driven, imaginative, flamboyant; a true one-off and the ultimate showman.
May He Rest in Peace.
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