Anonymous donor sends cheques to Cork schools

— the mystery benefactor surprised four Cork schools with €22,500 each this week
Anonymous donor sends cheques to Cork schools

Delighted pupils and staff at Cork schools which received anonymous donations this week: St Paul's School, Scoil Bernadette, Scoil Éanna and Scoil Aislinn

"Go and open your post quickly"

As soon as school principal, Anne Hartnett, opened the mail she was on the phone to colleagues urging them to do the same.

In among the usual bills and administrative correspondence was one letter that has brought much delight and a whole load of happy forward planning. 

An anonymous benefactor has sent rather generous cheques to four Cork schools catering for clients with extra needs. Cope-affiliated schools, Scoil Eanna, Scoil Aislinn, Scoil Bernadette and St Paul's have each received gifts of €22,500 from the same kind donor. It is understood that other Cork organisations have also received cheques as well. 

Some pupils and staff of St Paul's School, Montenotte
Some pupils and staff of St Paul's School, Montenotte

Anne Hartnett is principal of St Paul's School in Montenotte in Cork. This primary and secondary school caters for pupils aged from 4-18 years with moderate, severe, and profound intellectual disabilities.

"This just came out of nowhere for us — we have some very generous donors and have had great partnerships with local companies but nothing ever like this. I have been literally jumping for joy."

The cheques were sent via solicitor and came with a letter saying the donor doesn't want to be named. 

"The first thing I did was ring the solicitor to confirm it was real and then when it was I ran around to show it to everybody — the pupils, our caretaker, the teachers, everyone. This is just such lovely news," said Ms Hartnett.

St Paul's aims to revamp their multisensory room and to do up an outdoor area.

"Some of our 15-18-year-olds need somewhere to be the 'big kids in the school' — a hangout zone for them would be brilliant. We need some good toys which are relevant for our children and we'll stock up on art supplies which they love. These children deserve the best as well."

St Paul's dedicated Lámh choir hit the headlines the last time Ed Sheeran came to town when the pupils performed a special sign-language rendition of his hit sing, Perfect.

Scoil Éanna in Montenotte got one of the 'lucky letters' too. 

Elaine Angland is principal of the 74-pupil school which is attended by boys and girls aged from 4-13 years with mild intellectual disabilities. 

She said: "It's very exciting — we have never had an anonymous donor like this before. It's normally happy parents who might donate something. This is fantastic."

Pupils at Scoil Eanna in Montenotte along with principal Elaine Angland, say a big thank you to the anonymous donor who sent €22,500 to their school
Pupils at Scoil Eanna in Montenotte along with principal Elaine Angland, say a big thank you to the anonymous donor who sent €22,500 to their school

Ms Angland asked the Scoil Éanna pupils for their suggestions and they were more than happy to 'spend' the money. 

"I'm inundated with the most unbelievable ideas." 

Once some of the more impractical suggestions (including school dogs) were weeded out, they pupils agreed on something that they will all benefit from. The money will now go towards developing an outdoor classroom with moveable seating and a fixed canopy.

Kate Williams, Annemarie O'Sullivan, Fiona Barry, Grace Scannell, Claire Vernon, Pauline O'Connor, Sharon O'Neill, Sarah Harte, Hollie Pennefather, Aaron Kelly, and Ciara McCarthy, staff of Scoil Aislinn, Boreenmanna Road Cork 
Kate Williams, Annemarie O'Sullivan, Fiona Barry, Grace Scannell, Claire Vernon, Pauline O'Connor, Sharon O'Neill, Sarah Harte, Hollie Pennefather, Aaron Kelly, and Ciara McCarthy, staff of Scoil Aislinn, Boreenmanna Road Cork 

Scoil Aislinn on Cork's Boreenmanna Road caters for pupils with ASD (autism spectrum disorders).

Acting principal, Claire Vernon, said they were thrilled to be surprised with a cheque for €22,500: "We are going to upgrade our school bus. The one we have is 13 years old and has had a lot of use. Our school is at capacity with 36 pupils. They all benefit so much from social outings to the beach, parks or the woods — and lockdown has been particularly hard for our students with the break to their routines and with being restricted to their local areas. It will be great to give them trips to interact in the community which they absolutely deserve."

Scoil Bernadette: Principal, Don Golden; James Bruno (holding the cheque); James O'Donnell, Darragh Daly, Matthew Ryan, Caoimhe McCarthy, Ciara Milner (student nurse), Michael Mathe
Scoil Bernadette: Principal, Don Golden; James Bruno (holding the cheque); James O'Donnell, Darragh Daly, Matthew Ryan, Caoimhe McCarthy, Ciara Milner (student nurse), Michael Mathe

Scoil Bernadette in Montenotte also got a share in the €90,000 divided among four Cope Foundation schools. 

Principal, Don Golden, said they are delighted with the generous gift. 

The 124 pupils here are aged 12-18 years and many have graduated to this school from Scoil Eanna nearby. 

"We want to use this money to go towards a new school bus — we have had an 03 bus so it will need to be replaced. We timetable a lot of outings for our students to Fitzgerald Park, Blarney, Blackrock Castle and also to shops and places where they can learn practical money skills. Out-and-about learning is so important so it's really handy to have our own bus to help with this — maybe we'll get the students to help pick a name for the new bus."

Mr Golden had been interested in upgrading the school's solar panels and using these to power an electric bus but has learned that the cost of this is still too much for now. "Maybe that's one for a few years down the road. People are so generous with their time for us, fundraising and participating in corporate responsibility days but this gift is just astounding. We are delighted."

The secret benefactor

Solicitor, Simon Murphy, of JRAP O'Meara on Cork's South Mall, had the pleasant task of distributing the donations on behalf of his secret client. 

"They want to remain anonymous so we'll have to respect that but I will say that sending out these letters was one of my nicer jobs for sure."

It is understood that the money may have been 'a win of sorts' but Mr Murphy emphasised that while his client wants to see local groups benefit they don't want to be identified. 

Cash prizes that could create future philanthropists

  • Tonight's Euromillions jackpot is €40million.
  • Tomorrow night’s Lotto jackpot rolls towards an estimated €16.5 million. The last time a Lotto jackpot exceeded €15 million was in October 2010 when a Dublin winner scooped the life-changing amount of €16,390,239.
  • Prize Bonds come with a chance to win €250,000 four times a year and up to €50,000 in all other weekly draws.

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