Tuesday 6 December 2016

Taking a major step in the right direction

Ballymahon-Forgney show the 'big boys' how it's done as their Community Games health initiatives win top award

Published 21/06/2016 | 02:30

Ballymahon-Forgney Community Games Committee chairperson, Shirley Mooney (back), with students from St Matthew's National School, (l-r) Ella Casey, Eoghan Duncan, Christopher Killian, Jack Walsh, Clara Forbes, Rebecca Farrell, Cian Mollony and Emma Noonan.
Ballymahon-Forgney Community Games Committee chairperson, Shirley Mooney (back), with students from St Matthew's National School, (l-r) Ella Casey, Eoghan Duncan, Christopher Killian, Jack Walsh, Clara Forbes, Rebecca Farrell, Cian Mollony and Emma Noonan.

With the HSE Steps to Health Gold Award already under their belts, the Ballymahon-Forgney Community Games organisation recently went on to take the top spot in the National Overall Community Games Area Awards.

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This was a major victory for a much smaller and lesser-known area than many of those involved. In short, the win blindsided the usual suspects and has put Ballymahon-Forgney Community Games firmly on the map.

"We are very proud of what has happened," says Shirley Moloney, chairperson of the Ballymahon-Forgney Community Games Committee. "Ballymahon is not a big town nor is Forgney parish and we are an amalgamation of the two, so we have about 200 children taking part in the various Community Games events. We have a very small committee of about six people who did all of the work on it and many more volunteers coming in coaching.

"We also have a very active youth committee, which was formed last year to help us with the Steps to Health," Shirley adds. "So we began by having a local meeting when the criteria for the HSE Steps to Health initiative were announced and we decided together how we would go about it."

The Steps to Health initiative rewards areas around the country for promoting health initiatives and well-being within their communities. The award is an opportunity for Community Games Areas to highlight the valuable contribution made by volunteers and participants to improving the health and wellbeing of all members in their community.

The Ballymahon-Forgney Community Games Area scored highly in the small project section of the Steps to Health award with young Community Games participants carrying out a survey of food availability at their events. The findings from this survey led to an awareness of better choices and, eventually, policy changes at their events.

"We focused on topics including healthy eating, keeping active," Shirley explains. "We held an information meeting for the parents and participants in the Community Games and invited guest speakers on a range of topics. For example we had a local nutritionist come in and speak about diet and nutrition and healthy eating, and we had a local GAA player, who is also on the county panel, come in and he spoke about sport, exercise and the importance of keeping fit.

"Then at our local track and field day, which would be one of our big events in the year, we had stands about healthy eating and healthy snacks and treats, and we also had a stand with information about mental health support services and groups."

Ballymahon-Forgney Community Games also organised an anti-smoking poster competition throughout their local schools and conducted a mental health survey with sixth class primary school students.

"We were delighted to be a part of that and make the children more aware of their mental health and that is what the Steps to Health is all about," Shirley says.

"We were the only area in the country to achieve the HSE Steps to Health gold award and it is the first time it has ever come to county Longford. Taking part in the initiative meant that a small area like ours could achieve the National Overall Community Games Area Award." Shirley and her fellow committee members have been humbled by the support they have received from participants, their parents, the local schools, the Ballymahon-Forgney GAA Club and many local businesses.

"It means so much - we are all volunteers and we have a very small, very hardworking committee," Shirley explains. "So it is very much a community-wide effort. We have great support."

Dr Cate Hartigan, Assistant National Director for Health Promotion and Improvement, had high praise for the winners. "This is a great example of what our partnership and sponsorship of Community Games is trying to achieve," she explains. "It is about helping communities support healthy choices to improve our lives and well-being. Well done to Ballymahon-Forgney Community Games area."

* Community Games Areas can submit their Progress Report forms in 2016 on July 31, 2016 and October 3, 2016 (in time for the Area Awards). Information on the Steps to Health Award can be found by logging on to communitygames.ie/steps-to-health.

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