Thurles Parents & Friends of People with Special Needs. Summer Camp – A Gift of Time

garda-bart-howard-evelyn-nevin-steven-cullen-joe-ohalloran-orla-murphy-and-mike-walshOn chatting to a friend some years ago about the pending life changing experience of a new arrival to the family, that close ally said; ‘remember that the greatest Gift you can give to any child is A Minute of your Time’. Well, as Camp 2010 wound down about 6.30pm on Friday August 20th, and the few remaining helpers headed for the gates of the College, leading out to Kickham Street, those words of wisdom flashed through the mind like a thunderbolt out of a clear sky. For having spent a number of days in the midst of many children and teenage helpers one was a little bit puzzled, now, as to know whether the Gift of Time was Given or Received during the previous120 hours at Thurles P F S N Summer Camp.

At meal breaks time out was taken to reflect on the great vision of the volunteers who set the template over 30 years ago, Life President /Founding Member, Margo Olden and former Chairperson, Eileen O’Dwyer RIP to name but two, and their many colleagues down at the Guardian Angels, without whom Thurles Parents & Friends of People with Special Needs could not be the success it is today. Having looked on from the sidelines one often wondered at how and where did the motivation emanate from, through 3 decades, or perhaps was it just simply a vocation?

2008 a drive for new volunteers was set in train to reenergize Thurles Parent & Friends. On been invited to, and hesitantly accepting, the position of PRO simply because one could start a computer, which was handy enough for sending notes via e mail to the Tipp Tatler, Tipperary Star and Parish Newsletter r. Thanks to all for your co-operation with late submissions and missed spellings etc. Also to post a few letters, create posters for information evenings and of course to plug fundraisers. No bother really, glad to lend a helping hand. There were good and some not so good nights at meetings, which is par for the course with all hard working committees, as you’ll probably agree. Then, 2010, the final year of a 3-year term as Public Relations Officer dawns and I’m thrown in at the deep end. Not a wink of sleep the night before and it wasn’t the Leaving Cert results that were worrying yours truly, as was the case with Thomas and Lea. A pass grade at the close of camp on Friday would suffice, and wont everyone be over the moon then, kids and adults alike.

God Bless little children for all their innocence and for not recognising ‘first day nerve’ syndrome. Oh, just my luck then as I gingerly climb the steps up to Gerry Ryan’s bus, its just been announced that this camp is a healthy eating zone. All aboard, the roll call by Ev confirms. “Seat belts on everybody please the bus is about to move out” all are warned. Not a single Mars Bar in sight, no junk food then to calm the butterflies, as Natasha’s apple core gadget is slicing red and yellow ‘beauty bats’ by the kilo per minute. Rosie is on the move dishing out sprigs of seedless green grapes to expectant tiny fingers as the bus enters Liberty square, and has to stop again, suddenly, at the flashing amber lights of the pedestrian crossing.

Are we there yet?? Rings out as Cashel’s Famous Rock appears on the cloudless horizon, Benny, the bus driver, seems not to take any notice as he is quiet content taking us “All Around” Tipp! Down South to; Clonmel & Clogheen and Up North to; Nenagh & Templemore. There’s a sea of blue and gold flags and bunting all along the routes, could it be possible they were all expecting us or is there something else going on in the Premier County right now. On arriving at our destinations each child is assigned an adult’s hand, Michael grabs mine and off we skip down the laneway in the hazy sunshine, towards the jetty, to enjoy every second of the camp.

A Boat trip on the lake is our first adventure together where it appears we have infringed on the tranquil space of the snowy feathered swan parents, Cob and Pen, as they glide elegantly through the water but never too far from, nor out of sight of, their three baby cygnets, the skipper informs his crew. Is nature, here, attempting to send a message on this our maiden voyage? Michael points and shouts, “Look, there’s a big Crocodile.” No going back now, as Laura recalls her big win on TV last Saturday night week and how pleasant host Brian Ormond was.

Change of itinerary on day 4, its down to the pool at the Leisure Centre, first port of call for an hour, where Amy, kindly, dispenses some invaluable advice on how to stay afloat, which is gladly taken on board. Bart and Paddy arrive as we prepare to head in the direction of the Devil’s Bit to the Garda College. There’s great fun playing cops and robbers under the watchful lens of Paddy’s camera. The motorbike is a big hit. The chocolate ice cream in Murphy’s on Main Street is like Manna from Heaven.

Shauna, Rosie, Natasha, Darren and Eoin arrive early on the final morning to help with the decorations, as do Eimear, Chloe, Lea and Naomi who wrap the presents. Thomas is assigned to selotape sentry. Micheal and Joe make the final pit stop to spruce up the new Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle that will be unveiled to all and sundry later. Bouncy Castles are pumped up, by the Kavanagh gents, and ready for action. Josephine arrives with her pony in the horsebox. The burker boiler is refilled and switched on to full power. Darren gets the bunting up while Thomas, Micheal and Eoin fill the balloons. Orla and Michelle pop in from Holycross and Drombane to lend a hand. The Fire Engine’s flashing blue lights and siren is greeted with a loud cheer while Face Painter Aishling sets up her pitch. The sun shines brightly overhead; the barometer indicates ‘tis a little over 20 degrees. Liz and Amy, sleeves rolled up, declare the kitchen sink and draining board a ‘clearway’.

5pm Friday, out on the lush manicured lawns of the Pallotine, Chairperson and camp leader, Evelyn Nevin, presents each child with a Gift and a Certificate/Scroll while the parents and helpers get into serious party mode. The new bus is blessed by Fr. Gerard, who prays that all who travel in it, will do so safely. Rumour has it that sweets, cakes and chocolates escaped on to the party tables. Its all systems go, ok.

Hugs, Kisses and High Fives were the order of the week, with a few tiny tears thrown in here and there, for good measure. The weather looked down kindly on us too.

Many new friendships were fostered this week, with all the helpers willing to back each other up whenever a crisis appeared imminent and then the cry went out “Hey, where’s Evelyn”? “Get Evelyn quick”. On reflection, the highlight of the camp for me was witnessing the joy and happiness on the faces of the little children, ‘twill leave a lasting memory. Girls and Boys thank you for sharing that moment and for giving a Gift of Time to a humbled PRO.

Saoirse O Halloran, Shannon O Halloran (Holycross), Abbie, Rachel, Conor Stapleton (Borrisoleigh), Kevin O Donovan, Steven O Donovan, Steven Cullen, Patrick O Donnell, Paudie Patterson (Littleton), Conor Kavanagh, Amie Kavanagh (Rahaelty), Daniel Hayes, Daniel O Connell (Two Mile Borris), Sinead Maher, Orla Maher, Michelle Costelloe (The Ragg), Aisling Nolan (Loughmore), Orla Murphy Templemore), Charlize Burke, Chloe Power, Katie Fogarty, Michael Fogarty, Tommie Fogarty, Ben Burke and, Alex Burke.

The committee wishes to thank all the parents for entrusting the camp with their children this week. Photographer Paddy is putting a compilation together, which will be on the ‘big screen’ with Bart’s assistance, at a thank-you evening for the end of September. Funds raised in the upcoming Tipp Women’s Mini Marathon will also be presented on the night.

This will be an opportunity for all the helpers; fundraisers and parents to get together prior to the next big event at Halloween. If you have forgotten to secure a sponsorship card Contact Evelyn 0879774725 today.

Alternatively if you wish to get involved please e mail; parentsfriends@eircom.net

Thanks also to the following;

Benny the bus driver for getting us safely home each evening.

Jimmy was not with us this year however you were always in our thoughts.

Fr Gerard Hennessy, Community Garda Bart Howard, Paddy Loughnane ,

Murphy’s Pub and staff, Templemore. The Garda College,

Athnid Bouncy Castles, Josephine Doyle and Pony Cindy,

Thurles Fire Brigade, Officers Ml McCarthy and G Ryan,

Thurles Order of Malta; Joe O’ Halloran,

Face Painter; Aishling Ely,

Thurles Leisure Centre staff

Fr. Barry, Pallotine College

P.S. Congratulations to the Tipperary Senior Hurling Team

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