A TRIUMPHANT DAY IN LAKERS HISTORY
LAKERS had a launch and celebration at their new facility last week, having relocated to Eglinton Road following a devastating fire.
Their previous premises was destroyed in October 2018 and last week, the recreational and sports club for children and adults with intellectual disabilities officially opened the new facility.
Minister for Health Simon Harris was among those to visit the club last Wednesday.
Lakers provides a support network for over 400 members and their families, all of whom experienced heartbreak on the morning of October 5 last year, when their premises of 11 years was ravaged by fire.
The blaze also destroyed the club’s four minibuses, which were an integral lifeline to the club’s day-to-day operations.
‘There was utter devastation felt right across the wider Lakers community, last October,’ said Lakers chairman Fergus Finlay. ‘Unfortunately, there are little or no social, recreational or sports services provided for people with intellectual disabilities outside those set-up by private organisations and charities. Without Lakers, our members would have nothing – nowhere to go for social interaction and nowhere to learn and develop new skills. If Lakers ceased to exist, the impact of removing that support network would be detrimental to members and their families,’ he said.
‘As difficult as it was after the fire, we all resolved that we would build something much better than we had for our members. The community rallied around us in the most magnificent way. Our staff team worked around the clock to get activities up and running again, in a variety of begged and borrowed locations, within days. Because of the generosity of the Presbyterian community in Bray, we were able to move into a new and better premises quickly, and we have devoted all our efforts to making that new premises as member-friendly as possible. A phoenix rose from the ashes – and that couldn’t have happened without the magic that Lakers inspires in all of us. We are eternally grateful to those who came to our aid, when we needed it most.’
Following the fire, the Presbyterian Church in Bray offered Lakers the use of an old schoolhouse – now home to their new premises on Eglinton Road in Bray. Through funding received, Lakers were able to renovate the schoolhouse and also replace two of the minibuses lost in the fire – enabling members to continue with their sport, social and recreational activities, just months after their future was in doubt.
‘I am acutely aware of the importance of Lakers and the services it provides to its members, their families and the wider community,’ said Minister Harris at the launch.
‘I visited the Lakers team at the site of the fire last October and the sense of loss was overwhelming. Through sheer resilience and determination to do everything in their power for their members, the Lakers team turned that terrible incident into a positive. The club is back open seven days a week. Lakers members can boast over 230 Special Olympic medals and, no doubt, that figure will now keep growing.’
‘Lakers is a happy place, where we do lots of classes, make friends and meet new people,’ said member Ciara Fagan. ‘We learn to respect each other there. We are respected and we never feel alone. I love the choice of activities and I feel safe at the club.’
Lakers originally began as Bray Lakers in 1989, when a small group of parents realised there were no sport or social clubs for their children with intellectual disabilities.
What started with a small number of members, managed by parents who volunteered their time and skills, has grown into a club that now offers over 60 weekly classes, across 32 different activities, for its members. With the help of its 160 volunteers, Lakers members take part in onsite activities, such as arts & crafts, dance, drama, computer skills, cookery, healthy living, music and music therapy, keep fit classes and pottery. The club also works with local facilities for its members, such as golf clubs, leisure centres and sailing, ski and rugby clubs.
‘Our priority is to get the club into a position that allows us to cater for every person that contacts us, but due to our current lack of space, we have waiting lists for many of our activities,’ said Fergus Finlay. ‘We want to create an inclusive organisation for anyone with an intellectual disability, so they can have a choice in how they spend their time. The Lakers model is an excellent one and all of us would love to see similar clubs and services opening right across the country. However, none of that is possible without regular funding and Lakers itself won’t continue without regular funding. Today is a triumphant day in Lakers history, but without continued support, none of this is possible.’
MinisterSimon Harris opens the new facility, with Rebecha McAuley, Louis O’Rourke and Daniel Ryan.
The Lakers staff and team at the opening of theirnew facility on the Eg linton
Claire Wrig ht, Julia Callan, Derek Kelly, John Kichford, Ciara Fag an and
MinisterSimon Harris with Marian O’Rourke.
MinisterHarris with Patrick Hardig an and Gary Burton.