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Ticket money being put to the best use possible – by big-hearted communities

YOU don't need a sense of humour to join Ballybrack's Young At Heart active retirement group -- but it helps.

As the group's treasurer Marie Colley explains: "We have 54 members and 27 on the waiting list. We have to wait for someone to die before we can admit new members!"

The vibrant community group was one of 100 community initiatives to receive a timely windfall as part of the Dublin Bus Community Support Programme (DBCSP).

"We're delighted with the money and we'll put it straight back into the group to pay for various activities. We've already had to buy new furniture for the hall so this is a big help," explained club chairperson Nancy O'Connor.

Founded three years ago, Young At Heart has already become a vital community link for the elderly in Ballybrack.

"It was set up so that people would have something to do," Nancy said.

"We meet on Wednesday night and bring everyone together for activities like bingo, cards, darts and karaoke which is always a great night."

Marie added: "We also go on outings to the dogs in Harold's Cross and we've been to Wexford, Galway and over to Spain.

"We had one woman who joined and she said she'd go on the committee if we let her call the bingo, and she's great at it," smiled Marie.

Young At Heart was among the lucky award recipients in the charity programme which raises money from Dublin Bus's unclaimed change receipts.

Another lucky group this year was Finglas Wags, a name that prompted much giggling from awards patron Niall Quinn. Speaking at the official dinner yesterday, the former Ireland player quipped: "I'd better be careful in the company of all these WAGS."

Yet, as group member Suzanne Hanway revealed, they're a world away from being a support group for footballers' wives and girlfriends.

"WAGS stands for Women Are Great Surivors," she explained, adding that the group was set up by 14 women in order to make a meaningful contribution to the local area.

"Some of us were in an after-school group when we were younger and as we grew up we decided we'd like to give something back to the community. We do a lot of activities for kids and closer to Christmas we'll be arranging a play for the old folks and organising dances.

"Now we have this grant and we're hoping to use it for more activities. We also want to educate ourselves by inviting lecturers to teach us about everything from computers to beauty therapy."

A €5,000 cash injection will also make a huge difference to the children involved in Arthritis Ireland.

With about 1,000 youngsters in the country suffering from this painful and debilitating condition, programme coordinator Michelle Towey explained that the grant will be used to run a Positive Future workshop.

She revealed: "The workshop will be aimed at showing young people that even with arthritis they don't have to change.

"Treatment for arthritis is so much better these days -- it's important for kids to know that they can still have ambitions and achieve anything.

"One mother told me that the most heartbreaking thing was watching other kids run away from her daughter on purpose because she couldn't keep up with them and they didn't want to play with the child who was slow."

Yet, despite the difficulties faced by afflicted kids, Michelle insisted there are many positive stories too, explaining: "We know of one young boy who is 11 years old now, and his sister is two years younger than him but she always massages his hands when they're stiff and sore, which is a lovely thing to hear."

A similar spirit is echoed over at St Kevin's Family Resource Centre in Kilnamanagh, which has received a €5,000 grant from DBCSP.

Arts facilitator Annette Woolley told the Herald: "We'll use the money from the grant for an integrated group involving the Irish Wheelchair Association and people from Tallaght Youht Service."

She added: "At the moment we have about a dozen kids and teenagers. Some of them have disabilities and yet they all work so well together.


"They've already worked together on a project called Click Click which was a series of short films. All of the projects are planned so that everyone feels equal and everybody, no matter what their disability, can contribute."

Much of the organisation's money is swallowed up by the massive costs of transporting disabled kids to and from various activities. Yet Annette feels passionately that the social and artistic work undertaken by the kids is breaking down several barriers.

She pointed out: "There is widespread institutionalisation of people with disabilities and we're hoping to steer away from that, to show that everyone has value to society.

"Through these programmes, people have come out of their shells and discovered talents they didn't know they had, which is very heartening to see."