Wednesday 16 January 2019

Taking a dip in the games

A local Special Olympics athlete has inspired Fingal Dublin chamber to rally its members in support of the Special Olympics Ireland Games

Eoin Donohoe from Swords
Eoin Donohoe from Swords

A Special Olympian from Swords who specialises in sea swimming is asking for the businesses and the people of Fingal to back local athlete's efforts by supporting the staging of the Special Olympics Ireland Games, which will take place in June.

Eoin Donohoe from Swords at aged 20, is already a veteran of Special Olympics sport and has won regional medals for his efforts. He has competed in swimming in the pool and in the sea and also in bowling.

He is a member of the Mighty Ravens Special Olympics Club and the Phoenix Flyers Special Olympics Club and is also a valued and active member of Prosper Fingal and Remember Us.

Eoin has taken on probably the toughest event in the games, as a 1km sea swimmer. He battles through the cold of the Irish Sea and loves it.

Eoin told the Fingal Independent: 'The reason I do it is to compete with other athletes. I was competing with other athletes in the pool and I wanted to try it in the sea. I like both but sea swimming is definitely colder. It's freezing - ice cold!'

Eoin's Dad, Paul puts on his wetsuit to train and the cold doesn't seem to bother him that much, and he credits Special Olympics for Eoin's development as a person, and not just as an athlete.

The proud Swords dad said: 'It has totally changed him.

'It's not about the competitiveness, it's about the interaction with the other kids.

'Basic things like talking, relating to other disabilities. Eoin used to be very quiet,'

That is hard to believe when you meet Eoin these days. He is a bubbly, talkative, friendly and engaging character who said that the Special Olympics has given him 'a lot of confidence'.

His dad said: 'I know that's hard to believe now but he had no interaction skills. With ADHD and other complaints that he has, he was always in the background and wouldn't want to come forward or interact with anybody.

'Special Olympics definitely brought him on in that regard, Any social event now, he always integrates well and Special Olympics has encouraged that. It's brilliant, I have nothing but good to say about Special Olympics.'

Fingal Dublin Chamber has been inspired by Eoin's efforts and decided to get involved in the games, and is excited the event is happening on our door step. The chamber is encouraging its members to step up to the plate now and get behind the games and help Special Olympics Ireland raise the more than €2 million these giant national games will cost to stage, this summer.

Chamber president, Jock Jordan explained: 'From the Chamber's point of view, we are absolutely privileged to have an event like this on our doorstep. A lot of it is happening in Fingal and my message is to the businesses of Fingal to get involved and get behind this.'

The chamber president added: 'There is a number of ways they can do that and it's a great event to become part of your corporate and social responsibility, for a company of any size, even a small business.

'They could hold fundraising events for Special Olympics Ireland or have their staff volunteer for the games and I think they should encourage their staff and families to attend the event too.

In a rallying cry to local businesses, Mr Jordan said: 'This is happening on our doorstep and it's a really deserving cause and it is something that I have got quite passionate about and it's a great way for business to show their community spirit.'

They should get involved. I was talking to people in Prosper Fingal and they wanted to get involved and I told them they should instead of staying home and doing nothing. Get out there and get involved in sport.

Paul Ahearne, Special Olympics Ireland's Corporate Fundraising Manager echoed the chamber's sentiments and detailed the cost of the event the movement is staging this June and the benefits to businesses who get involved in backing the games.

Mr Ahearne said: 'In a typical year it costs about €4 million across Ireland to run the whole programme but this year, we have the additional cost of €2.3 million to run the Ireland Games. We have a huge requirement for funds this year and we have been very lucky in some of the support we have got including from Fingal County Council, who have come on as one of the main sponsors.

'So we are reaching out to businesses in the area to help. Thankfully we have secured a number of very big corporate partners, the likes of Eir, Gala, Aer Lingus have all been phenomenal supporters but for the Ireland Games we have taken on a number of additional supporters like Dell, Microsoft and Bank of America and so on.

'I think what's been attractive to them is the opportunity for their staff to get involved in the games as volunteers and for their brand identity as well.'

The fundraising manager said: 'The benefit of getting involved is having their brand associated with the biggest sporting event that is going to take place in Ireland, this year, and that's by participation numbers.

'We estimate, that over the weekend, we are going to have in and around 10,000 people involved in the games in one way or another as an athlete of volunteer, coach, family members and sponsors.

'Ultimately you will get a chance to transform the lives of people with intellectual disabilities who get to display their talents on the national stage.'

As Mr Ahearne mentioned, Fingal County Council is getting involved in the games as a sponsor and venues at the sports campus in Blanchardstown and at Morton Stadium gives Fingal a major part to play in the games.

Mayor of Fingal, Cllr Mary McCamley is delighted the county council is backing the event.

She said: 'The council are very much into sport and will sponsor things that they think will do the community good and this is obviously something that will be good for the community, beyond just the sporting element.'

She added: 'I helped out in Special Olympics when the World Games were here and it was one of the most wonderful experiences I've had. I was in Croke Park and at the RDS and it was just a wonderful experience. I think it was something we will never forget and it is just a wonderful organisation to be involved with.

'I was at the food counter so anyone who wanted to eat had to come to me. Anything the council can do for the Special Olympics, I say, go for it. It's something everybody should be involved in. It is lovely to have it in our own area and we are very lucky to have it in the area.'

Liz Callery is the regional director for Special Olympics and she said the movement is strong in Fingal with 19 clubs and 400 athletes regularly competing. She said that 67 of those Fingal athletes will be part of the regional team in the national games.

The last word goes to Eoin who said to anyone out there who wanted to get involved in Special Olympics 'should get involved'. He said: 'I would say get out there and get involved instead of staying at home and doing nothing.'

That seems like great advice and Eoin certainly practices what he preaches.

He trains weekly for his epic sea swims and according to his dad, even the Bank Holiday weekend didn't get in the way of his training.

Eoin said that his friends in Prosper and Remember Us often ask him about the Special Olympics and he has encourage them all to give it a go. The Swords athlete is ambitious too and wants to attain a goal he hasn't quite reached yet. 'I want to go to Abu Dhabi, next year,' he explains. Of course, he won't be going there for a holiday because Abu Dhabi is the venue for the next Special Olympics World Games which is scheduled to take place, next year. Eoin is determined to get there and having met him, and seen his positive attitude, we have no doubt he can make it. It would be wrong to think Eoin is all about competition though. He said: 'It's just a bit of fun and I just do my best.'

Fingal Independent