A BUSINESSMAN who began supporting a suicide prevention charity after appearing on television has been named philanthropist of the year.
‘Secret Millionaire’ star John Concannon has worked tirelessly over the last two years to open a Pieta House for people in crisis in the west of Ireland.
The charity is aiming to have a service within 62 miles of every person in Ireland.
The Community Foundation for Ireland awarded Mr Concannon for finding a premises in his hometown of Tuam, Co Galway, and raising the €250,000 needed to run it for a full year.
"Suicide is rampant in the west and something needs to be done about it," he said.
"If this helps to save one person then it's a job well done. That's all we are trying to do."
The plastic manufacturing tycoon revealed Pieta House West should be up and running in April after planning permission for renovations were approved in recent weeks.
It will serve people at risk of suicide across Galway, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo.
Vodafone Ireland Foundation was corporate philanthropist of the year for the World of Difference programme.
Pieta House has supported more than 6,000 people since it opened in Dublin in 2006.
Mr Concannon, who owns JFC Manufacturing, paid tribute to fundraisers across all the counties for supporting the new service and television bosses for putting Pieta House in the spotlight.
"They showed people there's a way out, there's hope, and that we can work our way out of trouble and problems," he added.
"That's the key."
Tina Roche, chief executive of the Community Foundation for Ireland which promotes philanthropy, said it is from both the head and the heart.
"It focuses on results, on the longer term and on sustainability," she said.
"We hope that potential philanthropists out there will be inspired by today's winners and think about setting up their own family or personal fund with the Foundation in 2013 as we can provide them with the mechanism for truly planned and strategic giving."
Former winners include JP Mc Manus, Mark FitzGerald, Declan Ryan and Chantal McCabe.