The Garda-organised awards, first established in West Cork 22 years ago, have since been replicated in a number of Garda divisions.
Award winner David O’Neill, 19, from Timoleague, was walking across the bridge in Bandon on St Stephen’s Night last year when he became aware of a distressed young girl. She had climbed up onto the wall of the bridge and the river below was flooded.
He managed to bring the girl back down from the wall on two separate occasions, but she climbed the wall a third time and she jumped into the river. Without a moment’s thought for his own personal safety, David jumped into the river, battled the strong flow of water, and somehow managed to pull the girl safely out of the river and onto the riverbank.
Meanwhile, another recipient, Wiktoria Karcz’s father passed away last year after suffering cardiac arrest. Since then, the 16-year-old from Ballineen has been taking care of her mother who suffers from poor health and is confined to a wheelchair.
The Clonakilty schoolgirl has the responsibility of looking after her mother’s daily needs. This requires carrying out all the household duties, and Wiktoria is also the main translator in the household.
Ballinhassig brothers Arron, 13, and Cian O’Leary, 15, were also honoured.
When Arron was born, he was diagnosed with a twisted bowel, and underwent lifesaving surgery in Crumlin Hospital. Then came news that he had Cystic Fibrosis. Cian was also diagnosed with the illness and over the years the brothers have undergone countless hospital admissions.
Arron underwent a double lung transplant in Newcastle last December and has shown remarkable courage. Cian remains a tremendous support for his younger brother, as well as to his parents, despite his own illness.
And, among the 21 individual winners and two group winners totalling 36, this year’s ‘Outstanding Contribution to Youth’ award went to Anne O’Driscoll of the West Cork Traveller Centre, Clonakilty. She has been involved with the group since 1979.
Since then, she has served as a volunteer, an advocate, and a member of Traveller women’s groups.
In 2010, she began work as a Traveller Community Health Worker. Her role is to assist Travellers through health services to improve the health of Travellers in West Cork — including physical, mental, and social wellbeing as part of the Primary Health Care Programme in West Cork Travellers.
She has focused significantly on young Travellers and has supported many to maintain positive mental health. In times of stress they feel safe in talking to Anne, because she provides a listening ear and assists them in accessing appropriate services to meet their individual needs.
This year, 128 young people were nominated for the West Cork Garda Youth Awards. Inspector Pat Meany from Bandon Garda Station acknowledged the high standard of nominees from across the entire spread of West Cork and thanked those who forwarded nominations.