New bus for St Paul’s School gets blessing at special event

Anne Hartnett, principal of St Paul’s School, said they wanted to host an official function to acknowledge the role everyone played in the acquisition of their new school bus.
New bus for St Paul’s School gets blessing at special event

A ceremony to mark the purchase of a new school bus for St Paul's Special School in Montenotte was held recently. Fr Michael Keohane, Diocesan Secretary, Diocese of Cork & Ross is pictured blessing the bus.

A CEREMONY to mark the purchase of a new school bus for St Paul’s Special School in Montenotte was held on Monday, June 27.

Anne Hartnett, principal of St Paul’s School, said they wanted to host an official function to acknowledge the role everyone played in the acquisition of their new school bus.

“We had a party. The whole purpose of the day was to extend our gratitude to our school community, the wider community, the many companies, and individuals who all contributed to make it all possible. Fr Michael Keohane from the Diocesan office blessed the bus. The oldest child in the school, Owen Okolie, who has just graduated, and Conor Kelleher, the youngest child in the school, assisted our caretaker Patrick O’Riordan, who does loads of the bus driving, in cutting the ribbon,” she said.

A school bus is integral to the success of St Paul’s, which caters for 97 children aged between four to 18 with a moderate, severe, or profound intellectual disability. The school principal said two of their buses both ‘went to God’ in December 2019.

“We were very fortunate to have a school bus for many years that one of our SNAs raised funds for. We then have a gentleman who we call the Santa Claus of St Paul’s — Noel Higgins — who donated a second bus to us around four years ago. They were great buses but the two of them went to God in December 2019 at the same time.”

Following the loss of their two buses, the school began the arduous task of embarking on several fundraisers during a pandemic to purchase a new bus, said Ms Hartnett.

“We badly needed a new bus for the children in the school. Getting out into the community is paramount to reinforce the daily living skills and the independence skills of our students. We initially set a target of raising €75,000 to get a new bus. We decided to reach for the stars and by December 2020 we had raised €94,000 during a pandemic.”

Pictured left to right are the previous and current principal of St Paul's. Helen Guinan, Sr. Thaddeus, Sr. Mary John and current principal Anne Hartnett.
Pictured left to right are the previous and current principal of St Paul's. Helen Guinan, Sr. Thaddeus, Sr. Mary John and current principal Anne Hartnett.

The school principal said they raised the money through a series of novel fundraisers from several sources within the school community.

“We had retired staff members and parents who did fundraisers for us. We had a substitute teacher David Hurley, who got sponsorship for running around the Lough 100 times. Stephen Kelleher, a physiotherapist who was involved with the school, ran a marathon within St Paul’s car park.

“We had members of the multi-disciplinary team who did relay races. We had companies who very kindly donated money. 

"One of our siblings’ brothers donated his Holy Communion money. The whole school community and beyond helped. The response we got back was phenomenal,” she added.

St Paul’s School purchased the 16-seater bus, which is wheelchair accessible, in March this year. Ms Hartnett said the children are delighted with their new bus.

“We purchased a 2020 bus that had never been used. The bus is wheelchair accessible, which is so important. We have so many children in the school who are wheelchair users or would have mobility issues. All you have to do is look at the children and see their faces when they know they are going out on the bus and when they return from an activity. It truly reinforces the curriculum and that means they are getting the chance to go out. It is great for them to experience all that Cork has to offer.”

Fergus Kennedy on the left receiving the Jerry Buttimer Volunteer Award from his son William. Jerry was the chairperson in St Paul's for over 30 years.
Fergus Kennedy on the left receiving the Jerry Buttimer Volunteer Award from his son William. Jerry was the chairperson in St Paul's for over 30 years.

An award was also presented at the recent ceremony to Fergus Kennedy for his volunteering with St Paul’s School. Ms Hartnett said he is a ‘wonderful’ man. “Fergus Kennedy won our Jerry Buttimer Senior Volunteer Award. He is a bus driver with Cope. When we got the bus, he told us that any time we want to go out with a class he will take them out. He is doing that since March free of charge. He is a wonderful man.”

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