Louth Volunteer Centre is delighted to announce the shortlist for the 12th annual Volunteer Ireland Awards. Over one million people in Ireland volunteer and these awards aim to celebrate the hard work and dedication of volunteers across the country.
Aged 10 to 80 from 16 counties, this year’s shortlist is a showcase of the breadth and depth of volunteering in Ireland. From mental health to sport to homelessness, volunteers have an invaluable impact on communities across Ireland every day.
On a shortlist of just 33 nominees, there are four Louth volunteers on the final shortlist. They are Orla Brannigan for her dedication to Comhaltas; Aaron Duffy for his dedication to Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann; and Eddie Phelan for his dedication to the local community including the Boyneside Trail.
Eric Beggs from Dundalk was diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa (RP) in his forties and has no eyesight left as a result. His friend Peter, who is sadly now deceased, introduced Eric to Fighting Blindness and fundraising.
Since then, Eric has completed treks, tandem cycles, Easter egg hunts, church gate collections and more to raise money for the charity. He has organised events every single year for the past 15 years, spending his personal time tirelessly fundraising and raising awareness.
He began fundraising primarily through church gate collections and taking part in sponsored walks. However, in 2014 he decided to take his fundraising one step further and started the annual Cooley Mountain Trek.The event was a sponsored trek through the beautiful Cooley Mountains. Eric organised the whole event with the help of his family. He secured lots of local sponsors, refreshments for participants, post-event entertainment and lots of coverage in local media. The inaugural event raised €7,217 and Eric went on to run six more Cooley Treks before his last one in 2019. The final 2019 Cooley Mt Trek raised €10,500!
Eric is tireless in his efforts, he said: “I have organised many events over the years. I don’t care what I have to do as long as it works and helps to find a breakthrough. I think it’s probably too late to find something to help me now but, as long as there is breath in my body, I’ll keep working until they find something that can help younger people from losing any more sight.”
Louth Volunteer Centre Manager Gráinne Berrill said “I’d like to congratulate all four nominees for being shortlisted in this year’s Volunteer Ireland Awards. Each year I am blown away by the breadth and diversity of volunteering across Ireland.
The Volunteer Ireland Awards take place on Friday December 6 in the Carlton Hotel, Blanchardstown where the winners in each category will be announced and Ireland’s Volunteer of the Year for 2019 will be named.
To date Eric has raised €150,000 for Fighting Blindness through fundraising activities.
So many people go above and beyond because they care and they want to make a
difference. These awards are a chance not just to say thank you to these extraordinary people but also to share their stories and shine a light on the extraordinary work that goes on in communities like those in Louth every day.”
This year the Volunteer Ireland Awards have partnered with the Department of Rural and Community Development and Healthy Ireland, who both share an ethos of volunteering contributing to healthy, vibrant communities.
Minister Seán Canney, Minister of State for Community Development, Natural Resources and Digital Development said “I am delighted that, through my Department, the Government actively encourages and supports the valuable contribution volunteers make to our society. Without their selfless contribution of time and energy, much of what we take for granted in terms of our society would not happen. Volunteers make a significant impact across many areas of society, including raising awareness of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Without active volunteers, communities cannot flourish.”
According to Kate O’Flaherty, Head of Health and Wellbeing, Department of Health, “Volunteering has a critical part to play in supporting healthy, sustainable communities. Not only for the positive impact on the health and wellbeing of volunteers themselves but for the impact their collective contribution has on our communities. We are delighted to partner with the Volunteer Ireland Awards again this year and are particularly pleased to see so many nominees in the health and wellbeing space.”