Awards cel­e­brate vol­un­tary spirit

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - KINSALE - Áilín Quin­lan COM­MU­NITY AWARDS

Ev­ery com­mu­nity has its al­tru­is­tic mem­bers, but not ev­ery com­mu­nity cel­e­brates the con­tri­bu­tions of those who give of their time and ef­fort for the ben­e­fit of oth­ers.

In Kin­sale how­ever, there is a spe­cial event whose sole aim and pur­pose is to high­light, and cel­e­brate those who vol­un­teer on the part of oth­ers — it’s been run­ning ev­ery other year since 2014, and it’s called the Kin­sale and District Awards.

Tomás O’Brien, co- chair of the an­nual awards, said: “The whole con­cept orig­i­nated with Garda James O’Ma­hony, a lo­cal garda who felt that the abo­li­tion of the town coun­cils left a void in terms of a sys­tem which would recog­nise the work of peo­ple who had done good ser­vice to the com­mu­nity.”

At the time, as Tomás re­calls, he was an out­go­ing Labour coun­cil­lor: “James and I came to­gether on this, and in 2014 we set up the Awards.”

The awards are run by a com­mit­tee of seven who come from all walks of life. The event is sup­ported by spon­sors, the Kin­sale-based phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany Lilly as well as the lo­cal credit union. At the pre­sen­ta­tion cer­e­mony, which is held ev­ery sec­ond year, usu­ally in the month of March at Ac­tons’ Ho­tel, a to­tal of 11 group and in­di­vid­ual awards are an­nounced. It’s a pop­u­lar and well- at­tended func­tion which draws an au­di­ence of about 200.

“We are look­ing to honour vol­un­teers who are mem­bers of the com­mu­nity and who do some­thing ex­cep­tional on be­half of the com­mu­nity, ei­ther over a spe­cific pe­riod of time or through­out their lives.”

The prepa­ra­tion for the cer­e­mony be­gins to­wards the end of the pre­vi­ous year, when lo­cal res­i­dents are asked to nom­i­nate a spe­cial some­one who self­lessly give of their time and ef­fort for a par­tic­u­lar char­ity or or­gan­i­sa­tions.

The fi­nal de­ci­sion is made by a panel of ex­ter­nal judges, usu­ally from out­side the town.

“The judges come down and they go through all of the ap­pli­ca­tion forms, make their de­ci­sion and then an­nounce the win­ners,” To­mas ex­plains.

It’s an ex­tremely pop­u­lar com­pe­ti­tion, he ex­plains, partly be­cause it gives a grate­ful com­mu­nity the chance to say thank you to those who have given of their time and ef­fort to make life bet­ter for oth­ers, and partly be­cause, as he points out, it’s sim­ply nice for the peo­ple in­volved to get the recog­ni­tion they so strongly de­serve.

Last year, for ex­am­ple, Kin­sale res­i­dent Pat He­garty, a well-known vol­un­teer who has been in­volved in many com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions over the years, re­ceived an in­di­vid­ual award: “For many years Pat has been in­volved in many lo­cal groups, most notably the St Pa­trick’s day com­mit­tee,” re­calls Tomás, who says the town’s hugely suc­cess­ful and very colour­ful Mar­itime Pa­rade which takes place on the eve of St Pa­trick’s Day, and at­tracts about a thou- sand peo­ple, was Pat’s brain­child.

Dur­ing the pa­rade, a spec­tac­u­lar ar­ray of brightly-lit ves­sels in­clud­ing yachts and row­boat s pa­rade in for­ma­tion from Charles Fort to the har­bour — an event which is fol­lowed by a spec­tac­u­lar fire­works dis­play.

An­other well- known award re­cip­i­ent is JJ Hayes a res­i­dent of the nearby vil­lage of Ballin­spit­tle.

“JJ was in­volved in the lo­cal Lusi­ta­nia com­mit­tee, which was in­volved both in the cre­ation of a Lusi­ta­nia Me­mo­rial Gar­den and the ren­o­va­tion of the Watch­tower on the Old Head of Kin­sale,” ex­plains Tomás.

And’s not all: “For years he was also in­volved in se­cur­ing af­ford­able hous­ing for fam­i­lies in Ballin­spit­tle through his hard work with the Ballin­spit­tle Devel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion.

“He has been deeply in­volved in many as­pects of com­mu­nity life and re­ceived the In­di­vid­ual award in 2014 for his work on be­half of his com­mu­nity which has been go­ing on for four decades or more.”

Among the groups to have won awards is Kin­sale’s Lions Club.

The club was recog­nised for the fund- rais­ing work that it car­ries out.

Re­calls Tomás: “The club won an award in 2014 — our first year — for their hard work in fundrais­ing to send ter­mi­nally ill chil­dren to Euro Disney in Paris, he says, adding that the club also fundraises to help older peo­ple with win­ter heat­ing costs: “The Lions Club fundraises and then dis­trib­ute the funds to lo­cal groups who know where it is most needed.”

An­other group win­ner was the RNLI, which won its award for ser­vices to the com­mu­nity in the form of in­di­vid­ual and group res­cues, while the Ballin­spit­tle De­fib­ril­la­tors group has also picked up a gong — the group’s vol­un­teers dis­trib­ute de­fib­ril­la­tors around the parish.

“The big thing with de­fib­ril­la­tors is to en­sure they are ad­e­quately main­tained and ser­viced and the group is very con­sci­en­tious about this as­pect of the work,” says Tomás.

The Sur­f2Heal group which gave lo­cal chil­dren on the autism spec­trum the op­por­tu­nity to surf in the seas around the pic­turesque har­bour town, is an­other re­cip­i­ent of a group award: “The group brought about 20 chil­dren out to en­joy the ac­tiv­ity — it was very suc­cess­ful and ran for a num­ber of sum­mers.”

And, now that Awards 2018 is loom­ing, or­gan­is­ers are urg­ing peo­ple to put on their think­ing caps, and come up with a l i s t — usu­ally of about 40 — fresh nom­i­nees to put for­ward around the end of the year. Watch this space!

Tomás O’Brien, co-chair of the Kin­sale com­mu­nity awards, says there are many tire­less ser­vants in the lo­cal­ity. Pic­ture: Dan Line­han

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