A man who has brought smiles to the faces of countless sick and deserving children was given a standing ovation by more than 250 guests as he was pronounced Cork Person of the Year.
The accolade deservedly went to John Looney from Togher, who founded the Cork City Hospital Children’s Club charity 23 years ago to enhance the lives of sick children.
It was a noteworthy occasion all round for John who confided his daughter, Noelle, 26, was due to give birth yesterday to his first grandchild. She attended the ceremony, calmly proclaiming: “It’s just a waiting game.”
John was also joined by wife Carol and a number of other volunteers with the charity.
The charity organises regular events for children, from local trips around Cork to Disneyland, Paris.
It’s not just sick children in hospital who benefit, so too are those drawn from the Cork Deaf Community and Edel House Residential Centre among others.
John had been inspired to start the charity after one of his own children fell ill and, at the time, the only comparable group organising such trips had been based in Dublin.
“These trips also provide an opportunity for children to meet and talk with each other and know that they are not alone,” he said.
“Some kids, such as accident survivors, carry significant emotional trauma, and these days out help them forget, even for a little while.”
John, also accompanied by daughters Pamela, Karen, Noelle, and Clodagh at the ceremony, received the award at the annual gala lunch in the Rochestown Park Hotel yesterday.
“I graciously accept this award for all the children gone before us and for all the children who have survived their battles and have had the most enjoyable experience with us during their trip of a lifetime,” said John, a HSE-employed security guard at CUH.
To secure the award, he had to beat the challenge of other monthly award winners. They include Angela Marshall, who saved two of her neighbours’ lives; Michael Lenihan, historian and archivist who promotes Cork history and heritage; and Marty Morrissey, born in Mallow, who was nominated for his contribution to the GAA.
Other monthly winners had been Billa O’Connell and David McInerney, stars of the golden age of Cork theatre; Veronica Stuart, nominated for continuing the craft of traditional lace making; Pat McMahon, for establishing a children’s hospital and malnutrition treatment centre in India; and Arthur Leahy and Kieran Rose, for promoting a yes vote in the marriage equality referendum.
Further nominees were Cillian O’Leary and Liam O’Leary for family wins in the City Marathon and Over 60’s Talent Show; Moyra Woodworth, for her service for the Cork Association of Autism; and Mary White, for promoting Cork Ladies Football team’s record achievements.
Munster and Ireland rugby player Peter O’Mahony was unable to attend and was represented by his parents John and Caroline.
Speakers at the awards presentation included Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney; Lord Mayor Chris O’Leary; County Mayor John Paul O’Shea; Tom Crosbie of Landmark Media — owners of the Irish Examiner — who were co-sponsors of the event; Adrian Lynch, RTÉ 1 channel controller; Pat Lemasney, Southern Advertising; Bishop John Buckley; Bishop Paul Colton; and awards’ organiser Manus O’Callaghan.
Prime Time’s Miriam O’Callaghan acted as Master of Ceremonies and Mr Looney was chosen as Cork Person of the Year by judges Tim Lucey and Ann Doherty, the respective chief executives of Cork County Council and Cork City Council.
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