Padraig O’Reilly from Clonakilty was named Irish Red Cross Volunteer of the Year 2018 last weekend while 12-year-old Donegal native Sarah McConnellogue received the Irish Red Cross Young Volunteer of the Year Award.
A volunteer with the Irish Red Cross for just shy of 20 years, Padraig O’Reilly balances a hectic schedule; he works full-time in Dunnes Stores, he is a retained firefighter with Cork County Fire Service and he holds no less than three positions in the Irish Red Cross – Branch Secretary, Branch Youth Officer and he is also a training officer in the unit structure. Under his leadership, Clonakilty Red Cross Branch opened their new branch premises in 2016, while Padraig was also the driving force behind getting the Advent Food Collection in aid of Cork Penny Dinners off the ground, with this year’s collection gathering no less than 42 crates of food and 12 bags of toiletries.
But Padraig’s most selfless act of all may have been when Cork was hit by flash floods very early one morning in June 2012. Padraig’s car was damaged by the water but instead of tending to his own needs, he turned his attention to his community and to those whose homes and businesses were damaged. Padraig said at the time his car was the least of his worries, as one day it could be replaced.
As if this wasn’t enough, Padraig and his wife Aga established the Clonakilty Branch’s Irish Red Cross Chloe Burke Carer of the Year Award, ensuring the memories of their dear colleague Chloe will be remembered for many years to come.
Most recently, Padraig gave great service during Storm Emma, as he took on treacherous conditions in Clonakilty Branch’s 4×4 ambulance, transporting nurses to work and patients to hospital.
12-year-old Sarah McConnellogue has been a member of the Muff Branch in Donegal for three years. She has completed numerous programmes, including first aid training, and she competes in all Branch first aid training and competitions. Sarah has an impeccable attendance record at the Branch and has not missed a training night in the last two years. She is always first to volunteer when the Branch is helping out at community events and is the first name on the list to attend all youth events. However, Sarah’s greatest talent may be her role as a recruitment aficionado; Muff Branch currently has 19 youth members who are in Sarah’s school class!
Sarah is described by those who nominated her as “an enthusiastic, committed volunteer who shows a willingness to learn and develop new skills – she and is a true humanitarian.” It was also noted by her nominators that Sarah has a smile for everyone she meets and befriends new members, ensuring everyone is involved and happy.
Sarah is eagerly looking forward to progressing as a member and delivering first aid training, as well as becoming a youth leader.
Addressing the gathered volunteers chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs, Alan Farrell TD said; “volunteers within the Irish Red Cross act as an inspiration to us all through their commitment to helping local communities, providing humanitarian aid in times of need, and assisting the most vulnerable people, both at home and abroad. The selfless nature with which they carry out their work showcases their commitment to helping others and working to make our world a better place, as we all most notably saw by the Irish Red Cross’ response during our recent weather emergencies, including storms Emma, Eleanor, Brian and Ophelia. As Chairperson of the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs, and a former member of the Oireachtas Justice, Equality and Defence Committee, I have always been impressed and inspired by the dedication of Irish Red Cross volunteers and I wish to express my sincere gratitude to every single member of the organisation across Ireland for their commitment to helping others.”
Speaking at the ceremony, Ted Noonan, Chair of Irish Red Cross Volunteer Development said; “the Irish Red Cross’ mission is to identify and deliver impartial humanitarian assistance to those who are most in need, offering hope to vulnerable communities – both at home and abroad, and this spirit is exactly what our volunteers in Ireland embody in their work every week. Irish Red Cross volunteers like Padraig and Sarah keep our communities safe and make them more resilient. Today is a great occasion to acknowledge their efforts and to recognise those who have particularly excelled in their field in the last year.”
The Irish Red Cross National Volunteer Award kicks off celebrations for World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, which is held each year on May 8 to celebrate the work of the Red Cross and Red Crescent globally and locally.