Inspiring Coláiste Íde student named among Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards finalists

INSPIRATIONAL Coláiste Íde, Elysha Ní Chuláin, has been named as one of 20 finalists in the prestigious 2014 Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards which honours the work of outstanding youth volunteers.

Elysha was chosen for the extensive voluntary work she has completed with Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children Crumlin and Barretstown SeriousFun Camp. Her commitment stems from her own lifelong battle with serious illness, which inspired her to help those around her.

"When I was five years old I was diagnosed with a brain tumour," said Elysha. "I attended Crumlin for ten years, underwent a gruelling course of chemotherapy, many terrifying tests and several surgeries. When I was eight years my tired body gave up and I had a massive heart attack and died. But Crumlin did not give up on me – they put me on a life support machine.

"I am now blind in my left eye, have permanent damage to my kidneys and my bloods are a bit wonky – but none of that bothers me. It took a long time but I am here today, I am healthy. I am strong."

"I missed a lot of school and Crumlin was my new home. I had many friends in hospital but I struggled with my self-confidence when I entered secondary school and that's where Barretstown came into full force. They gave me back my confidence," she said.

The Coláiste Íde student was 14 when she got involved with volunteer work, participating in the Crumlin Hero's Project in March 2011 and in September 2012 she became involved in the Kellogg's Funraise4Kids campaign for Crumlin Hospital which ran for the duration of the school year.

Elysha also volunteers at Barretstown as part of their CLP programme, working there over the summer and returning in October to help out at their family camp.

She also helped organise a Christmas charity event for Crumlin Hospital last December.

The young woman has no idea how many hours she has put in to volunteering – she estimates around 400 – and she also delivers talks on the subject to schools and conferences.

"I always say Crumlin cured my cancer and Barretstown cured the hidden scars cancer left behind and I view both as equally important parts of the best cancer treatment," said Elysha. "They saved my life. I owe then everything. I love them both. They are part of who I am today. "

Clive Byrne, Director of NAPD travelled to Coláiste Íde last week to meet with Elysha who will attend the Pramerica Spirit Of Community Awards 2014 in Donegal on March 26 where she will receive €500 and a special engraved medallion.