Mark gets gold for tribute to sister
HE dug a well for orphans in Malawi, coached football to kids at his local GAA club, and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for cancer research.
And yesterday, marketing student and garda reserve officer Mark Jones was rewarded for his efforts with a gold medal from President Mary McAleese.
His adventure to Tanzania not only raised €3,000 for cancer research, it was also a personal tribute to his sister who died of cancer at the age of 12.
Mr Jones, a 22-year-old Masters student at UCD, was among 70 exceptional young adults from across Ireland who were presented with 'Gaisce', the President's Award for personal achievement.
The native of Terenure in Dublin was among the last group of gold medal winners to be honoured by Mrs McAleese as she steps down from her second term as President.
Mr Jones said he was inspired to take up the Kilimanjaro challenge for the Irish Cancer Society after flying over the highest mountain in Africa.
"It was a poignant moment when I reached the top because it was my sister's birthday," he told the Irish Independent.
Twin sisters Karen and Maria O'Sullivan (23) from Grenagh, Co Cork, were also honoured for their involvement in the community. Not only are both sisters national school teachers, they undertook the same challenges, including learning volleyball, promoting health at their local college, and walking 100km from Youghal to Mallow to raise money for cystic fibrosis.
President McAleese, meanwhile, said she regretted that yesterday's annual ceremony at St Patrick's Hall in Dublin Castle "is my last day to be on this platform".
But she said it had been a tremendous experience honouring the Ireland's youth over the past 14 years.