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Caring Conors win praise from President Higgins

TWO secondary school friends who enlisted dozens of other teenagers to run a social club for children with special needs were named the Volunteers of the Year last night.

Conor Kavanagh (18) and his friend Conor Malone (17) from Patrician Secondary School in Newbridge, Co Kildare, were honoured for their selfless contribution to their community at the fourth annual awards at Dublin Castle.

The teenagers were cited for their exceptional dedication to setting up the Jumping Jellybeans club in Newbridge and recruiting 70 other volunteers.

The club provides a social outlet for local children with autism, Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy who would otherwise have nowhere to socialise outside of school.

Conor Malone, whose 14-year-old brother Fionnan is autistic, said he was inspired to set up the club because there was nowhere for children with special needs to go once their school day was over.

"They wouldn't have the same facilities as we had, so we gave them somewhere to go," he said.

The charity Volunteer Ireland, which recognised a total of 33 outstanding volunteers at last night's ceremony, said the boys had made a huge impact in the area of social inclusion in their local communities.

President Michael D Higgins, who addressed the ceremony hosted by RTE's Claire Byrne, also praised the boys' efforts.

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