This time last year if you had told me that the most amazing year of my life to date was ahead of me, I would have found it hard to believe you.
In May 2011, I was honoured to become the Westmeath Rose of Tralee 2011, and have the opportunity to represent my county at the regional finals in Portlaoise.
Pandemonium had set at the Donohoe household, as there was only a week to prepare for what was one of the most amazing weekends I could have imagined.
I joined 52 other roses in various events around Portlaoise that weekend, the most memorable the vintage car rally, where I met my Mini Escort and Rose-bud for the first time.
Sadly, it was also a bittersweet weekend for me as my grandmother, Mary Naughton, passed away the same weekend. Nevertheless, family and friends travelled to support me on stage with Daithi O'Shea, and I even got him to play the bodhrán for me as I danced.
Sadly I didn't make it through to the finals in Tralee, but as a wise man once said to me, 'what's for you won't pass you', and it did not.
After Portlaoise I got in contact with www.volunteerwestmeath.ie and met Bernadette, who put me in touch with several different organisations that I spent my year helping in any way I could.
I organised five other Roses to do the Tri-Athlone in aid of Breast Cancer Ireland and later joined these Roses to complete the Great Pink Run for the same cause.
Volunteer Westmeath also put me in touch with Cormac Lally from the Midlands Simon Community. I worked with Cormac and his team to co-ordinate a non-uniform fundraising initiative in local schools. As a reward to the children, I travelled to the schools to teach the children the New Zealand rugby dance, the Hakka. I really enjoyed working for this worthwhile organization and have plans to continue work with them in the future.
I attended several events through the year and met several celebrities, such as Mickey and Mini Mouse at the opening of Papa John's in Mullingar.
I joined Leitrim Rose Brenda Stenson and Meath Rose Dearbhla Toal at the Haymakers Festival in Meath and I would also like to mention and thank the Athlone Agri Show, Irish Draft Horse Festival, Queen of Daingan Festival and the Queen of the Grainne Uaile Festival, Mayo, for inviting me to be apart of their festivities.
The highlight of my year was the opportunity to travel to Belarus to spend a week in the Children's Mental Asylum in Vesnova with Adi Roche and 15 other Roses for Chernobyl Children International.
I stayed in the orphanage for the week and spent my time caring for the children in the high dependency unit and playing with children in the other units.
The children ranged from the ages of four to 18 (at 18 they are sent to the adult asylum, far removed from the care and attention they receive at this children's asylum).
It is incredibly sad to see such bright children having to live like that and I want to express a sincere thank-you to all who donated or attended any of the fundraising events held.
I can guarantee you that your money is being put to good use as I got to see first hand where it goes. Between all the Roses we raised over €20,000 and still counting.
This has been one of the most amazing years of my life and I couldn't have done it without the help and support of my family and friends, who collectively call themselves my Quality Streets.
I would like to express my gratitude to the Westmeath Rose of Tralee committee; Athlone Community Radio; and to all those who met me with a smile along my travels.
Finally I wish all the Roses the best of luck at the Westmeath Rose of Tralee 2012 Selection on Saturday night in the Athlone Springs Hotel.
Go Raibh Míle Maith Agat.
See this week's Westmeath Examiner for details of the 20 Roses vying for the title Westmeath Rose 2012.