Tipperary Water Baby Honoured At Water Babies Little Heroes Awards

Water Babies, Ireland’s leading baby and toddler swim school, is delighted to announce the winners of their Little Heroes Awards, following a nationwide search to find Ireland’s most inspiring young swimmers.


Water Babies is thrilled to honour fourteen ‘Little Heroes’ who have battled illness and adversity including premature birth and Down Syndrome or have shown a lot of courage in their little lives so far.  Each child has a story of how water and swimming has helped with their development or improved their lives and the lives of their family in some way.

Tipperary Water Baby Honoured At Water Babies Little Heroes Awards

Aoife and Lilly Carew at Little Heroes Awards

Our Little Heroes winners are Abby Dillon (Cork), Oliver Thompson  (Dublin), Gaia Dunne Izzo (Dublin), Grainne Carey (Kildare), Kate Byrne (Wexford), Rose Courtney  (Drogheda), Heidi Guilfoyle (Kilkenny), Maya Brophy (Galway), Alexandria MacBride  (Dublin), Ethan McCabe Moore (Dublin), Thea O’Connor (Limerick), Lilly Carew (Tipperary), Ella Fitzgerald (Dublin) and Michaela Power  (Waterford).


Lilly Carew (Tipperary)

Lilly Carew (4 years) has been with Water Babies for nearly two and a half years, she will be five in April and has loved the water since she was born.   Lilly has been swimming on her own for a while and is always delighted to demonstrate to the other kids in her class what they need to do next, when she is asked by her teacher Julia.    Lilly is a great big sister who loves teaching baby sister Sophie who also swims with Water Babies.   Sophie but doesn’t have the same love as Lilly does for the water and is not too happy when it is her turn to go underwater.  Little Hero Lilly has been teaching Sophie how to go under water and blow bubbles and now Sophie loves it.   Mum Aoife said “My heart bursts with pride when I see how far she has come with Water Babies and when I see her swimming around all on her on I am beaming inside and out.”


Heidi Guilfoyle (Kilkenny)

Heidi Guilfoyle’s parents couldn’t wait to start Water Babies classes with Heidi as their first child Dylan started when he was just 9 weeks old.  However Little Hero Heidi had to be placed in a Pavlik harness when she was 6 weeks old to treat Hip Dysplasia.  Heidi was in the harness 24 hours a day for four months unable to move her legs.  The harness was removed in hospital every two weeks for a bath and each time Heidi would screech with happiness when she was put in the water.  As soon as Heidi was allowed out of her harness her parents booked her Water Babies lessons and they haven’t looked back.  Heidi truly loves being in the water and spends most of the class screeching with delight and splashing her hands into the water.  Proud Dad Noric said “Heidi is so happy and content and comfortable in the water. The lessons have also been so helpful to help strengthen her legs and muscles that had been unable to move at all for 4 months. Heidi has got so strong since she started Water Babies and we can see her legs getting stronger every week.”


Maya Brophy (Oranmore, Galway)

Maya Brophy (6 years old) saved herself when she fell into a swimming pool while on holidays in Tenerife when she was 3 years old.   Maya’s mum Suzie was in the pool at the time however was too far away to get to her quickly.  Thanks to the skills learnt at her Water Babies classes, Maya swam back up to the surface, found the pool’s edge and held on to it.  Maya’s Mum Suzie was relieved “Maya was perfectly fine. Not even scared. It was amazing!”   Maya started Water Babies when she was three months old in ClareGalway and although she loved her classes at first, she hit a rough patch when she was two years old and didn’t want to go her swimming classes.  Water Babies teacher Jamie Cobbe helped Suzie with some strategies and Suzie persisted with Maya’s lessons and it worked.  Suzie said “Maya overcame her wobbles and started enjoying the lessons again.  I would recommend Water Babies to any parent as it’s a fantastic programme.”


Kate Byrne (Tinahely, Wicklow)

Proud Granny Anne Newsome nominated Kate who started swimming at Water Babies when she was six months old.  Kate Byrne (14 months) was born with a huge tumour in her heart. Kate had a slim chance of survival but has gone on to prove everyone wrong and show what a little warrior she is. Kate’s parents were told she would tire easily, but this never seems to be the case. They believe her water babies class has helped strengthen her heart if anything.  Her face lights when she’s in the pool and bath and she loves practicing her ‘hold on’ and ‘monkey monkey’ while trying to walk.    Granny Anne Newsome loves going to Kate’s Water Babies class in Amber Springs hotel every week to watch her splash about and learn new techniques. “We love water babies!” She said.


Abby Dillon (Cork)

Abby Dillon (14 months) has Down Syndrome and underwent a massive open heart surgery when she was just five months old.   Abbey swims at the Oriel Hotel swimming pool in Cork and she is the happiest baby in her Friday morning class.   Teacher Karen calls her ‘her little smiler’.   Abby’s family are very proud of her achievement and all travelled from Cork to Dublin to see her being presented with her special award.


Gaia Dunne Izzo (Dublin)

Gaia Dunne Izzo (15 months) was born 12 weeks early weighing just 1lb 8oz.  Gaia is a little hero because she has helped her mum Tanya to overcome her fear of Water.    Tanya was afraid of water and can’t swim however she didn’t want Gaia to feel the same fear, so she decided to take the plunge and join Water Babies as soon as Gaia was well and big enough to go swimming.   Gaia has helped her Mum to overcome her fear of the water and even though they only stay in the shallow end, they have a great time together in the swimming pool.


Grainne Carey (Kildare)

Grainne Carey (19 months) who swims with Water Babies in Jigginstown in Naas saved herself when she was accidentally knocked into a swimming pool by child who happened to be running past.   Her Mum Aoife jumped into save her however she needn’t have worried as Grainne was already hanging onto the side of the pool by the time she got there.    Aoife said “Swimming with Gráinne has not been easy she is very headstrong (which means tears and tantrums) and quite often in class she doesn’t follow directions. This means that sometimes I don’t know if she has actually taken in what she has learned.    Grainne saving herself has meant the world to me, because even though the classes rarely go to plan for Gráinne and myself, I know that she is taking it all in and gaining knowledge and confidence in the water.”


Rose Courtney  (Drogheda)

Rose Courtney (15 months) who swims at Integral in Drogheda, was born with hip dysplasia.  She was in a harness for 10 weeks and then a cast for 16 weeks. By the time, Rose was seven months old she had spent most of her life restricted in some way or other, so they longed for bath times and swimming pools!    Rose became a new baby when her cast finally came off.  She discovered her toes and quickly learned how to sit up.  Rose started to walk over Christmas and looks forward so much to her swim every Monday.  “Rose spends the class smiling and laughing! It’s such a special time for us.”  Commented mum Yvonne Courtney.


Alexandria MacBride  (Dublin)

Alexandria MacBride has been swimming with Water Babies since she was 11 weeks old – she took to swimming like a duck to water.  She had absolutely no fear and progressed really well much to her Mum’s delight.   However, after a change of swimming pools, Alex became afraid of the water and didn’t want to swim, jump in or go under the water. Mum Emma persevered and with guidance from her Water Babies teacher Caeleen, Alex continued her classes at her own pace.  Alex now swims on her own, puts her head under the water and has truly amazed her Mum.  Emma said “I am so proud of Alex –  she is just 3 and is doing really well.  Water babies is without a doubt the best thing I do with her, no matter what happens in the week it is a half hour for just me and Alex.  We love it and Cay our teacher is fantastic.”


Ethan McCabe Moore (Dublin) 

Ethan McCabe Moore (4 years old) has been attending Water babies since he was 6 months old.   Born five weeks premature, Ethan had various health issues to overcome in his first year and then battled through a bad case of the ‘wobbles’ at Water Babies for 12 months. With reassurance from his teacher Claire and his Mum’s perseverance Ethan got through them and loves swimming now.  Ethan has just turned four and his swimming classes are now the highlight of his week.  Mum Lynsey said “His confidence and ever increasing abilities are just fantastic and he boasts about his skills to anyone who will listen! Claire’s patience and understanding throughout the course has just made the whole experience so enjoyable and rewarding!”


Thea O’Connor (Dooradoyle, Limerick)

Thea O’Connor (11 months) had a terrible fear of water – it was so bad her mother couldn’t put her in the bath or in the pool when they went on holidays.  She would literally scream and shake even when they washed her down with a water wipe!!   Now every week she is clapping her hands and splashing all the other babies in the pool.   Mum Christine said “I Don’t know what I would have done without Water Babies.”



Libby McCoy (Dublin)

Libby McCoy  (11 months) was born seven weeks prematurely at 33 weeks on 13 March 2016.  Libby has made huge strides in her development since starting Water Babies.  She suffered from plagiocephaly due to the angle she was sleeping at in the neonatal unit however swimming has helped strengthen her neck and round out her head.  Kara McCoy said “From the moment, Libby first went swimming she absolutely loved it and she has grown bigger and stronger through the chapters to the cheeky beautiful little girl we know today.”


Ella Fitzgerald (Dublin)

Ella Fitzgerald (3 years old) started her Water Babies journey when she was three months old.  She loved the water from day one and would be full of smiles during her swimming class.   However, shortly after Ella turned one it all changed and she developed a severe case of the ‘Wobbles’ –  Ella got a fright one day around water and Ella’s love turned to hate.  She would stiffen up so much that trying to get Ella into a bath or pool became near impossible.  When Cliona, Ella’s Water Babies teacher in Blackrock Hospice came into Ella’s life things changed for the best however it took nearly a year for Ella to get over the Wobbles and get back in the pool fully.  Ella loves swimming every week, after overcoming a huge challenge and has made her family very proud.


Michaela Power  (Waterford)

Michaela Power (2 years, 9 months) has inspired her dad Brendan to learn to swim in Waterford.  He had to take private one to one lessons called “No fear” in order get rid of a major fear of water so he could join in the fun on holidays and help Michaela if she ever needed it.   Brendan felt very scared around water however once he saw Michaela’s progress, he was inspired and motivated to get over his 50 year fear as a result of a very bad experience he had when he was in primary school in England.  Brendan took private swimming lessons for months and has now moved to small group lesson and is making major progress thanks to his little Water baby Michaela.


Oliver Thompson  (Dublin)

Ollie Thompson (3 ½ years) was born with Congenital Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and as a result has hemiplegia cerebral palsy of his left side.  He has overcome all the odds and started to walk independently in April last year.  Ollie has built up so much strength in his swimming classes and has gone from not being able to hold onto the rail at all with his left hand, to doing ‘monkey monkey’ at speed along the rail.  He was also unable to kick his legs until this year but it now able to motor around the pool on his woggle on his front or back.  Mum Emma said “Swimming has definitely played a big part in his amazing progress and he loves his weekly classes.”


Carol McNally from Water Babies said “We absolutely love hearing about all the remarkable little swimmers out there and the moving tales they have to tell.  The idea of the Little Heroes awards is to reward incredible accomplishments when it comes to water and to raise awareness of the importance of children learning to swim at as early an age as possible.


Water Babies research showed that the average age children start swimming lessons is four years old and 40% of children haven’t had a lesson by the age of 12, when swimming lessons can actually can take place from birth.  In fact, over the last few years a dozen of our pupils have actually saved themselves from drowning, some of whom were just two years old!”


Water Babies swimming classes provide significant benefits for babies and toddlers including increased resistance in the water which helps to build muscle tone.  Swimming also helps to develop motor skills and physical fitness and water buoyancy helps to reduce body weight, easing pressure on different parts of the body — especially bones and joints.


Water offers a greatly enhanced sense of freedom and independence and it is also a great leveller, and can help children have fun within a non-competitive environment. And swimming stimulates all of the senses.  Each Water Babies lesson offers a range of activities which encourage children to develop their concentration, control and co-ordination. Sensory activity introduces new experiences, helps little ones to make sense of their environment, develops their memory, and speeds learning.   Plus, doing it together helps with bonding!


Water Babies new term of classes starts in February.  To find your nearest class, visit www.waterbabies.ie


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