Blarney GAA’s Healthy Club wins award for innovative ways to 'allay boredom' and raise funds

Blarney GAA’s Healthy Club wins award for innovative ways to 'allay boredom' and raise funds

Blarney GAA Healthy Club's Martina McCarthy, Lisa Hedderman, Valerie Kirby, and Jim McAvoy.

The Lord Mayor’s Community and Voluntary Awards 2021 have recognised the work of the city’s Covid Heroes who stepped up to help those most in need during what has been a difficult year for all.

The awards recognise the work of the voluntary organisations that continued to provide services throughout the city during the pandemic under the umbrella of the Cork City Community Response Forum.

The winner in the Health and Wellbeing category was Blarney GAA’s Healthy Club for its work within the community.

PRO of the club, Valerie Kirby, along with Martina McCarthy, Jim McAvoy and Lisa Hedderman, had seen how other healthy clubs had made a difference in other communities and in a mission to get the GAA off the pitch, out the gate and into the heart of the community, they started the Healthy Club in January of last year.

The club started its Wednesday night walks in February, attracting over 150 people of all ages and abilities on its first night and continued to attract a crowd even in bad weather until Covid-19 hit.

The club became involved in the Community Response Forum and volunteers cleaned gutters, collected prescriptions, did peoples’ shopping, and delivered Meals on Wheels.

Sometimes we were their only point of contact and you’d call to people and they wouldn’t want you to leave, it was heartbreaking.

A book exchange was set up in the local Centra while libraries were closed “as a means to alleviate boredom” and also began its Wednesday night chats series in March with talks from dietician Billy Murphy, Eoin Cadogan on health and fitness, and Dr Sharon Lambert on wellness.

Over the Christmas period, kids in primary schools in the area wrote to older people in the community which was “bridging a gap between the generations”, giving them “a new respect for each other”.

The club’s Blarney 500 fundraiser, which saw people clock up 500 miles in 24 hours and raise €17,000 for local charities, brought “such a lift around the village, you could actually feel it”.

Ms Kirby said that the club is “absolutely thrilled” with its award and that “it was lovely to be recognised”.

“It is really lovely and it will also show other clubs that this is what you can do, it costs you nothing and it’s pure positivity and other communities could do it as well,” she said.

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