This week saw two inspirational young people from Tipperary receive their prestigious Gaisce Gold Award from President Michael D. Higgins at a special awards ceremony in Dublin Castle. Sarah-Louise Fallon and Ann Kelly were among 55 young people from across Ireland who received their Gold Award on the day. Between them they dedicated more than 12,000 hours to receiving their awards. Since its inception in 1985 an estimated 150,000 young Irish people have completed a Gaisce Award, including former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh and Irish rugby international and Connaught player Robbie Henshaw.
Gaisce – The President’s Award is a direct challenge from President Michael D. Higgins to young people aged 15-25 to dream big and realise their potential, push their boundaries and develop skills which will stand to them throughout their lives. This year’s Gold Awardees have successfully completed five challenge areas for 52 weeks or more – volunteering with a charity or community group, developing an existing skill or learned something new, became more active through sport or exercise, took part in a four-day adventure journey discovering the great outdoors as part of a team, and broadened their horizons on a five day residential stay away from home. All Awardees previously received the Gaisce Bronze and Silver awards.
Sarah-Louise Fallon went to the gym and took part in the Women’s Mini Marathon for her Physical Activity. She got involved in drama classes every Saturday afternoon for children aged between 7 – 13 and played piano for her Personal Skill, which led to a her realising a love for playing classical pieces. She went to the Gaeltacht in Kerry for 8 days and walked the Burren Way for her Adventure Journey. She describes her Gaisce journey as giving her that ‘get up and go’ attitude and says that “in the end the feeling of achievement is most definitely worth it!”
Ann Kelly is an avid artist and already holds a Bronze and Silver award. She is very proud to be the first student from Our Lady’s Secondary School to achieve the Gold Award. She says she was really glad she undertook her Gold Award during her Leaving Cert year as it was a stress reliever and helped keep her feet on the ground. Every Saturday she visited an elderly neighbour, getting her breakfast and making sure she had some company. Ann’s Gaisce journey also saw her develop her arts and crafts abilities and painted the set and props for the school musical Les Miserables, she became a stronger swimmer and travelled to Lourdes as a helper. Finally Ann and five of her friends travelled the Westmeath Way; despite the weather and lots of blisters, it was her favourite part of the award. She would encourage anybody to do Gaisce. In years to come, she says ‘I will remind myself that one hour is nothing to give up when the reward is all the happiness you bring to yourself and someone else’s life”.
Special Guest, President Michael D. Higgins addressed the audience during the ceremony “It gives me great pleasure to be here with you today to recognise the dedication, perseverance and generosity of our Gaisce Gold recipients, and to present 55 talented young people with their award. Today marks the conclusion of a journey – a journey in which you tested yourselves, through your thoughts and actions, first discovering and then surpassing your own limits. It was a journey in which you demonstrated not only a personal determination, but also a commitment to the service of your communities and of your fellow citizens. Today is a day on which you, your families and friends, your teachers and mentors, and all those who helped you on your path to the Gold award, can justly feel very proud of your accomplishment.”
John Concannon, Chairman of Gaisce – The President’s Award said “I would like to congratulate all of those receiving their Gold Awards here today. They should be proud of all they have learned and achieved. I think it’s fair to say that the future of our country and communities will be in safe hands if these young people are leading it.”
Yvonne McKenna, Chief Executive of Gaisce – The President’s Award said: “Gaisce truly is a national treasure: helping thousands of young people each year to dream big and fulfil their potential. I congratulate this year’s Gold Awardees who have shown determination and commitment to achieving their awards and it is only right they are celebrated here today in beautiful Dublin Castle, with all the pomp and ceremony that goes with it. With many young people possibly feeling a little lost in their lives today, Gaisce – The President’s Award is a vital framework which gives young people a voice, confidence and self-belief through their achievements and goals. Today’s Gold Awardees aren’t only incredible ambassadors for Gaisce, but also their families and our country.
We applaud, too, the commitment and dedication of the President’s Award Leaders (PALs) who mentored the young people through their Gaisce journey and to this special day. For many of the more than 30 organisations represented today, this is their first Gaisce Gold. A huge thank you to all the organisations and the PALs for supporting young people to dream big and fulfil their potential through Gaisce – The President’s Award.”
2FM DJ and RTE presenter, Eoghan McDermott, acted as MC for the ceremony. Four piece Dublin indie band The Temps and singer songwriter Sonny Casey performed during the ceremony.
25,000 young people registered to take part in 2017 and Gaisce’s aim is that 35,000 young people will register each year by 2020, the 35th anniversary of Gaisce, so that every young person has the opportunity to participate in the programme and realise their dreams and ambitions.