WATCH: Tipperary dad urges public to support St. Gabriel’s Respite House fundraising campaign

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The first Respite House for children with physical disabilities and complex medical needs in the Mid-West will be a game changer for them and their families.

St Gabriel’s Children’s Respite House, a special purpose-built facility, will be located in Mungret, on the outskirts of Limerick. This state-of-the-art, six-bedroom facility is being developed at a cost of €2,481,635, with €1m already donated by the JP McManus Foundation.

St. Gabriel’s has now embarked on a major fund-raising campaign - St. Gabriel’s Children’s Respite House is about time!’ - to raise a shortfall of over €1million for the facility, construction work on which will be completed in the autumn.  The campaign was launched today at the Savoy Hotel in Limerick city.

One of the many children in the mid-west region who will benefit from the expert care of St Gabriel’s is Maia Quinlan from Limerick, whose father Pat is from Moneygall and operates a well-known convenience store/petrol station adjacent to University Hospital Limerick.  Pat lives with his wife Mary, their daughter Maia (13) and her two sisters near Patrickswell and, according to Mary, the new respite house will provide priceless back-up and peace of mind to her family and over a hundred other families in the region that will be able to turn to it for support.

“In June 2016 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. So, for a long time I was unable physically to look after Maia, which was very difficult,” she says of her own personal experience of the need for the centre.  For me, as her mum, and for my husband, who the burden of care fell to, we really needed the psychological peace of mind of knowing Maia was being looked after. And unfortunately that was probably the greatest source of stress.

“If there had been a facility like the respite house available to us it would have been a huge support. Maia is like a newborn baby in the body of a 13 year-old. She has quadriplegic cerebral-palsy, so she is unable to use any of her limbs. She is unable to do anything for herself.

“Despite all her difficulties she is one of the best people I know. I think if you are having a bad day, all you have to do is come in and sit with Maia and you will get a lot of perspective on what’s good about life.  But she does need round-the-clock care and sometimes there are other things that we absolutely have to do, whether it’s for our other children or a family event, and it’s very difficult to marry those demands with Maia’s needs.

“We were, therefore, really pleased to hear the Children’s Respite Centre was in the pipeline. Maia will only have three years or so to avail of it as it will be for children up to 18 years but even those few years will provide precious support. We know Maia will be in really good hands if we need to turn to it. This will be an absolute game changer for a lot of families.”

Said St. Gabriel’s CEO Máire O’Leary:  “From its very inception in 1961, St. Gabriel’s has been about putting services in place to help make life as positive as possible for children with disabilities.  Today, St. Gabriel's provides the most advanced range of clinical therapies and interventions for over 600 children.  St. Gabriel’s Children’s Respite House is another stage of its advancement.  It’s a place for children to call their ‘home away from home’, their club, their getaway. It will be their own special space.

“We will have the most experienced nursing and health-care staff in place to give the type of specialist care these children need, a level of care normally only provided by their parents or an acute hospital. We know the huge demands and stresses on parents who care for their children 24/7.  However, from speaking to these parents, the families want to care for their own child in their own home but need a little support from time-to-time to help them cope and recharge.

“These parents give their children incredible love and care around the clock but they also have other aspects of life that need their attention and time; simple things such as tending to their other children’s needs, and, perhaps, as with Mary’s courageous story, their own health.  St. Gabriel’s Children’s Respite House will enable all of this.”

Ms O’Leary thanked the JP McManus Golf Pro Am committee for their incredible support to the project, without which this hugely important facility for the region would not be developed and said that St. Gabriel’s is now turning to companies, business and organisations and the general bridge the capital funding gap. 

“St. Gabriel’s has had a tremendous can-do spirit over the years but it could never have become what it is without the support of the public and local business community.  We are getting very positive feedback about this project and our first pledge has come in from Limerick Twenty Thirty, which has committed to buying an overhead hoist for a bedroom to assist with lifting children.

“We also want to thank Mary & Pat Quinlan and their family for stepping forward to be the face of this campaign.  They have an incredible story of love and devotion to Maia but they are also a perfect example, representative of hundreds across the region, of a family that still needs this type of facility so badly.”

Said Mayor of the City and County of Limerick Cllr James Collins:  “I know I’m not alone when I say St Gabriel’s holds a very special place in my heart.  I have had the great privilege of seeing first-hand the wonderful work St Gabriel’s School and centre have done over the years locally in Dooradoyle.  As St Gabriel’s embarks on this new chapter, I am excited and filled with hope. Now the dream of St Gabriel’s Respite House is finally coming into view the great need for it becomes all the more apparent.

“Finally, there is about to be a place where children with the most complex needs can call theirs; a place where they get to spend time with others, socialise with them in their own special way, in their own space.  And their parents will have the peace of mind of knowing they are being expertly cared for in a loving and caring environment akin to their own home, allowing them to do things that the rest of us take for granted. That in itself makes St Gabriel’s Respite House an absolutely priceless asset to these families and children.”

Those wishing to donate to the campaign can do so by contacting:  Kate Sheahan, ksheahan@stgabriels.ie.