Schools remember Cork's Béibhinn with random acts of kindness

Béibhinn O’Connor, from Riverstick in Co Cork, died on September 16, 2020.
Schools remember Cork's Béibhinn with random acts of kindness

Nine-year-old Béibhinn O'Connor passed away on September 16.

A ‘RANDOM act of kindness’ day is being held in schools in Cork tomorrow to mark what would have been the 11th birthday of a young girl who survived open heart surgery only to pass away of cardiac arrest during what was expected to be a routine surgical procedure.

Béibhinn O’Connor, from Riverstick in Co Cork, died on September 16, 2020. She was born with an extremely rare congenital heart defect and attended many medical appointments during her short life. However, she was a vibrant happy child with a zest for life.

Since her death her parents, Irene and Eoin, have raised €100,000 for the Make a Wish Foundation and a further €30,000 for a remembrance garden in Carrigaline through their charity The Heart Angel.

Irene says that, when her daughter died, she galvanised her energy into fundraising for charity.

“Materialistic things don’t matter to me. The only thing Eoin and I want to do is to help and to give back to the community. With the garden, I just want to do something small to make the life of local people better.

“The garden will have a play therapy area. I remember being so stressed and scared towards the time around Béibhinn’s operation and dropping her off to another medical-looking room for play therapy. It looked so wrong. She had so many appointments.

“I want to think outside the box and have a place where people can do play therapy in a different environment.”

Irene says that, while schools are holding a kindness day to celebrate Béibhinn’s “heavenly birthday”, it would mean so much to her if other people took up the challenge.

“It would be lovely if we lit up Facebook with our random acts of kindness. I think that we could all do with a burst of positivity, and people reading and seeing your kindness will be encouraged to do the same,” she says.

Meanwhile, work is under way on The Heart Angel garden in Carrigaline. Irene is particularly pleased with her plans for a play therapy area.

“There is going to be a circular blackboard where children can write their emotions. Cards are also going to be designed by an artist and a psychologist for families who can’t afford play therapy, that they can do some form of therapy in the garden. We also hope to teach children about rewilding and to have nature programmes.”

Irene and Eoin O'Connor turned the sod in the Carrigaline Community Park for the Heart Angle Garden which will open later this year. The O'Connor's daughter Béibhinn suffered from an extremely rare congenital heart defect and passed away in 2020. Picture Dan Linehan. 
Irene and Eoin O'Connor turned the sod in the Carrigaline Community Park for the Heart Angle Garden which will open later this year. The O'Connor's daughter Béibhinn suffered from an extremely rare congenital heart defect and passed away in 2020. Picture Dan Linehan. 

Garden designer Maura Duffy joined the project following the loss of her son Conor King. The 22-year-old from Douglas in Cork died after he fell from a cliff while camping with friends in Garretstown in April last year.

Irene says that she and Maura are passionate about doing a good job on the garden.

“I was telling Maura that I was trying to keep busy and doing the garden for my daughter and I said, ‘The only thing I need now is a garden designer.’ She started laughing as she has won awards for garden designing.

“She is doing it for Conor and obviously my motivation is Béibhinn.

“We are planting flowers and shrubs that will attract wildlife back. We can bring back ladybirds and caterpillars and butterflies and bees.

“When my daughter was waiting for her operation, she was really worried about dying. One of the stories I told her was about the caterpillar. That we are all like caterpillars, but the caterpillar turns into the chrysalis.

“The butterfly flies around and all its caterpillar friends don’t recognise the butterfly, but the butterfly will always be able to see and be with the caterpillar friends. That is what heaven is.

“We want the garden to be a place where children can explore their different worries and to bring nature to them.”

The garden in Carrigaline Community Park is a work in progress and Irene is appealing to business owners, garden centres, and the public to assist them in their work.

“We are looking for businesses and the public to get on board. We are looking for benches and sculptures. Or if somebody wanted to do a section of the bedding we would love it. We will be continuously adding to the garden.

“We also hope to fund gardeners at the weekend to help and advise families on what to plant in their gardens. We hope the rewilding idea will catch.”

Irene wants the gardens to be colourful, uplifting, and inspiring to all members of society.

“We also want to lift the taboo of speaking about a child’s death and to create a place where their friends and family can remember them in a positive light.

“My daughter was very kind. I know that The Heart Angel charity will continue to inspire young people across Ireland to carry on her kindness and keep her spirit alive.”

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