Awards celebrate voluntary spirit
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