A teenager who lost both her father and aunt to suicide and has dedicated her time to promoting positive mental health, and a survivor of cancer who has used her experiences to help others battling the disease have won prestigious youth awards.
Rachel Dhingra, aged 17, from Belgooly, and 14-year-old Rene Murnane Hayes from Bantry won an Overall Award and a Special Achievement Award respectively at the 19th West Cork Garda Youth Awards, presented at a ceremony in Acton’s Hotel in Kinsale, Co Cork, last Friday.
In all, 16 awards were presented with some young people receiving awards in several categories.
The ceremony highlights the achievements of outstanding young people between the ages of 13 and 21 and this year a record 147 nominations were received, a figure which demonstrates the contribution made to their community by the youth of West Cork, according to Inspector Brendan Fogarty, Bandon Garda Station, chair of the judging committee.
Inspector Fogarty made special mention of SuperValu’s long-standing commitment to the awards, which were attended by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Ms Fitzgerald paid tribute to the award-winners, particularly the manner in which the young people honoured had given of their time so selflessly in order to enrich the lives of others.
She also praised the partnership approach undertaken by An Garda Siochána in West Cork, in conjunction with SuperValu and the wider community.
Gerry Devine, regional manager for SuperValu, reflected that, having sponsored the awards for the past 19 years, it was a clear vindication of the SuperValu motto “we believe in local”.
Among the other overall winners were Chloe Kelleher, aged 18, from Skibbereen, who helped raise more than €54,000 for Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin after producing the hugely popular The Little Fighters Cookbook; Gemma Hurley, 15, from Drinagh, a Student of the Year at her local school who is an active volunteer with the Dunmanway CoAction group and has helped raise funds for Marymount Hospice; 14-year-old James Barry from Timoleague, a cardiac first responder, who has been an active member of his local defibrillator group for the past eight years.
Two other Special Achievement Awards were won by Chloe Keane, aged 16, from Bandon who volunteers with her local youth café, raises funds for charity, and is engaged in writing a programme for a new local Community Radio Station and Conor O’Callaghan, aged 13, from Kinsale who, despite suffering from the muscle-wasting disease muscular dystrophy, has won an array of medals in table tennis and represented his country in the sport. Earlier this year, he was honoured with the Munster Table Tennis Hall of Fame Award.
The Outstanding Youth Award was won by Tom Reilly from Ballinamaul, Kinsale, for his work with the local branch of the Irish Red Cross, his achievement as a county and national trainer in occupational first aid instruction, training both young and old and his work in raising funds for charities home and abroad.
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