Oliver Kennedy, Noel Clyne and Ronan Fox, National Learning Network, Mullingar. Photo: Lorraine O’Sullivan

National award for NLN Mullingar volunteer

A member of the team at the National Learning Network in Mullingar won the title of Active Service Volunteer at the Active Disability Services Awards at Farmleigh House on Thursday March 31.

Noel Clyne, NLN Skillsbridge, Mullingar, was one of a number of awards winners at the event, as staff and individuals from disability services all over Ireland were recognised.

Awards were presented for specific physical activity programmes, management teams, key workers and active service users. There were also special recognition awards presented to people who work in disability services and who go above and beyond to include active healthy practices.

The event, presented by Cara Sport Inclusion Ireland in partnership with the HSE and Sport Ireland and sponsored by Hyundai Ireland, was a celebration of how people within disability services across Ireland prioritise, encourage, facilitate and create physical activity programmes and healthy lifestyle initiatives for people with disabilities, especially over the last two years.

After an open call for entries, the judging panel selected the final winners, who were then invited to attend the event to receive their awards and share their stories.

Minister of State for Sport, Jack Chambers, joined disability equality activist, Jacqui Browne, on stage with host Matt Cooper for a discussion on creating opportunities for people with disabilities to be more physically active in their services and communities, and also about the true meaning of inclusion in sport and physical activity.

Ms Browne said: “You can participate, you can play, you can be a spectator and supporter, so we need to think about inclusion at so many levels.

“My key message would be to use your own voice, don’t be afraid to speak up saying what you need to participate.”

Asked about funding, Minister Chambers said: “I’m passionate about trying to bridge the participation gaps for people with disabilities through additional funding and the Sport For All initiative – which will be developed this year – is all about inclusion and trying to connect additional opportunities to participate.”

CEO of Cara Sport Inclusion Ireland Niamh Daffy said that the event was “a special celebration in so many ways”.

While offering a long-awaited opportunity to reconnect with our colleagues and partners, the ceremony allowed us to shine the spotlight on the commitment of passionate people in disability services who go above and beyond in advocating for, supporting and empowering people with disabilities to have equal opportunities in leading active and healthy lifestyles.

“We would like to thank everyone who engaged with the awards process and congratulate all finalists and winners.”

During the pandemic restrictions, creating opportunities to be active became a challenge. In response, many disability services, and the people who work in the sector, adapted in how they delivered programmes for physical activity. Many of those have continued to be delivered, which has shown commitment from services to ensure physical activity remained an important part of the daily lives of people with disabilities.

A full list of categories and winners can be found on the Cara website.