When we applied for the CARA National Inclusion Award, I never thought for one minute that we would win the Sports Club Category. Here we were, Park Rangers AFC, a small rural club who had only started our Football For All Programme the previous year, but my reason for applying was simple; I wanted to gain recognition for the children, the young people (including my son), the Parents and the Club we represented. I felt that if we were fortunate to win, this would promote us and encourage more children and young people with disabilities to participate in sport. We also wanted to highlight to other clubs in Waterford the importance of being an inclusive club and for them to become more accessible to people with disabilities.
We believe that everyone has the right to participate in sport regardless of their ability. I have seen first-hand how important it is for these children and young people to be involved and participate in sport. Whether it’s being part of a team, or doing one-on-one activities, whether it’s gaining confidence or just having fun or whether it’s socialising or feeling empowered, everyone is entitled to be treated as equal.
Winning this prestigious award has had a massive impact on our Club, but more importantly on our FFA programme. We were instantly promoted through recognition of winning such a magnanimous award and suddenly I had phone calls from other organisations such as The Irish Wheelchair Association, The Brothers of Charity and the Central Remedial Clinic contacting me about children and young people attending our then upcoming ‘Summer Fun Camp’. Word started to get out and phone calls started coming in from parents asking if they could bring their children and teenagers along to our sessions which meant recruiting more coaches and volunteers. It is inspiring to see the progress these children and young people have made since they have started this programme and the pride in the parent’s faces when they see another achievement their child or teenager makes is priceless.
Since winning the CARA National Inclusion Award Park Rangers AFC made it into the final eighth of Aviva Club of the Year Award 2015 and while we did not win we were truly honoured to have made it into the final. Winning the CARA National Inclusion Award has helped us grow in numbers and we recently held our very own Munster Regional FFA Blitz in Waterford. Over 120 children and young people with disabilities from all over Munster came together to participate on the day. Lots of football was played and a big spread of food including our very own Waterford Blaa and sausages were had. An award ceremony followed where every child and young person who participated received a trophy. The highlight for the children and young people was the trophies I’m sure, however for me it was seeing every single one of them put on their club jerseys’ and represent their clubs like every other player. The parents and coaches/volunteers excitement on the sideline and the High Fives and smiling faces of the players is a picture I will carry forever.
A massive thank you to Pat and the CARA Family for everything ye do and for recognising our contribution. We encourage all clubs and organisations that make sport, physical activity and physical education accessible to people with disabilities to apply for the CARA National Inclusion Award.
Best of Luck to everyone in 2016 Awards!
This was a guest post written by Mary Condon, Park Rangers AFC FFA. Park Rangers were the winners of the 2015 CARA National Inclusion Awards -Sports Club Category. The application for the 2016 National Inclusion Awards closes on 22 July.