Brenda O’Donnell: Help yourself to be a better person, by doing the things you do best


As the CARA Inclusive Fitness Coordinator, Brenda is responsible for the growth development and National implementation of Inclusive Fitness Training which has specific focus on managers and frontline instructors with the aim of increasing opportunities for people with disabilities in the leisure and fitness sector. Brenda holds a BSC in Health, Fitness and Leisure Studies and previous to her role at CARA, Brenda was a sports development officer for students with Disabilities in Dublin City University. In the subsequent years she was the Director of Sport for Cerebral Palsy Sport Ireland based in Dublin.

Why did you choose to work at CARA?

When the CARA Centre was established in 2007 I was working as a director of Sport for Cerebral Palsy Sport Ireland (CPSI). I began to work very closely with the CARA Centre, and was especially connected to them via the Sports Inclusion Disability programme. As part of my role at the time, I was developing and delivering training to leisure facilities and fitness professionals on exercise and accessibility for people with disabilities. I worked closely with CARA beginning in about 2009 to help them develop their Xcessible Leisure Training, which was training that was specifically designed for the fitness sector, and helped get it launched in 2011. In 2015 when the CARA Centre advertised for the position of Inclusive Coordinator, I knew it was a role not only that I wanted and would love, but one that I knew I could bring years of experience and knowledge to. The role has given me the chance to bring the Xcessible programme to the next level and allowed me to bring Inclusive Fitness to a National level, increasing the awareness of the concept to the Fitness Sector.

Looking back at your time so far at CARA, what do you think has been the Centre’s greatest accomplishment?

In my opinion, the greatest accomplishment during my time so far with the CARA Centre has been the establishment of a national office outside of the main Head Quarters in Tralee. The CARA Centre is now also situated in the National Sport HQ which houses 15 other National Governing Bodies of Sport. We are also based within the National Sports campus which is the hub of all things sport. I think it is a crucial and important move for the CARA Centre to be situated there and one that allows other organisations to see us and regard us as a National Organisation. I have the great pleasure of being based in the new office and already feel that we are fast establishing ourselves as the national organisation for disability sport. This has led to the establishment of some very important working partnerships within the sports Sector.

What do you personally hope to accomplish by working at CARA?

Personally, I hope that I can bring the best of myself to the role of Inclusive Fitness Coordinator. There is huge scope within the role to make an impact on the lives of people with disabilities and I hope that through my role I can help change the mindset of the individuals working within the fitness sector, as well as change and improve the lives of people with disabilities by highlighting the importance of being active.

If you were to give one key message to the people reading this, what would it be?

I came across a good quote recently by Stephen Hawking.

It read, “My advice to other disabled people would be concentrate on the things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.”

I think we can all take something from this thought and live for today, the here and now – Help yourself to be a better person, by doing the things you do best.