Shane Fitzsimons, a senior vice-president of global giant GE and who attended secondary school in Kinsale, Co Cork, in the 1980s, urged the students of Kinsale Community School to focus on their health as he handed over the cheque to fund the development of a floodlit running track around its all-weather pitch.
Just weeks before he leaves the multibillion-dollar company to pursue other interests, Mr Fitzsimons, 50, told the student body, which includes his nephew, David, in fourth year, and niece, Lucy, in second year, that he loves running — he is set to run his second New York marathon next month and the Scottish 10k and half marathon next weekend.
“If I could leave you with one message it’s this: Focus on getting healthy and staying healthy — it takes time and investment and commitment to yourself,” he said.
“But you will feel better and perform better in all aspects of your life. When you’re battling every day of your life at my age, you’ll understand why.
“It’s harder for you. Social media aside, you will have consumed more sugar by your eighth birthday than my parents’ generation will have done in their lifetime. But don’t let that deter you — eat well and move a lot. You will thank yourself later.”
Mr Fitzsimons’ parents, Garry and Anne, moved from Belfast to Kinsale when he was a child. They have been heavily involved in the community for the last 40 years through various groups, including Kinsale Lions Club.
Kinsale Community School has been completely revamped and opened the doors of its new purpose-built campus earlier this month to some 970 pupils.
The principal, Fergal McCarthy, said they used the redevelopment to embrace the Healthy Schools concept, and embarked on an ambitious plan to become the fittest in Ireland.
It has developed a Fifa-accredited all-weather pitch and a huge gym which boasts an Olympic-sized basketball court and a strength and conditioning suite. As well as the running track, there are plans to build two tennis courts and a hockey training pitch.
Mr Fitzsimons said it has been amazing to watch the school evolve and he was proud to continue his and his family’s involvement with it.
The school has now named the pitch, Fitzsimons Park, and inducted his father, Garry, into its Hall of Fame.
President of Kinsale Lions Club, Chief Supt Con Cadogan, praised Garry for his immense behind-the-scenes work for the community over many years, which resulted in him receiving the Lions movement’s highest award, the Melvin Jones Fellowship. He also made Shane an honorary member of Kinsale Lions Club.