A KILLALOE mother-of-two has described the €27,000 raised by her daughter’s charity cycle for a major community development as “phenomenal”.
“Julie’s Cycle to School” has exceeded the initial €3,000 target ninefold as thousands of euro poured in from people who watched Julie Collins (6), who is a wheelchair user, cycle on her adapted bike.
Even the rain didn’t deter Julie from cycling her fourth kilometre from the car park near Gooser’s Bar, Ballina down to the former co-op store on the bridge and back again on Saturday.
Flanked by her parents, Nicola and Fergus, a group of about 40 family and friends cheered Julie along the way and posed for photographs with two giant balloons with inscriptions “Well Done Julie” in the viewing area overlooking the lake in the middle of Ballina.
Julie will complete her final kilometre at Boher National School.
Born in Ballyvalley, Killaloe, Nicola is now living in Boher and is the chairperson of Boher Community Development Group. Proceeds from the cycle will go towards renovating the school’s sensory garden and geodome.
In an interview with the Clare Champion, she said the response to the cycle and the group’s new project is amazing.
“The response from people has been phenomenal. We never expected to receive this level of donations. Local people and the business community have given us great support. People have been amazing. Some people have given €100, some gave €5 and every €1 has been really appreciated.
“Friends have made donations of balloons and decorations for the cycle. It has really brought the community together.
“Julie is loving the cycle. She completes inclusive athletics with Derg AC on Saturday mornings and has been busy on the last few Saturday afternoons doing the cycle.
“When people see a child or an adult in a wheelchair, they think that is it. When people see Julie pedalling on her adapted bike, they couldn’t believe it. That was a shock for people to see her in a different context in a good way.”
Julie started cycling when she was about two and a half years old on an adapted bicycle given by Santa Claus. Her parents paid €900 for her second and latest one, which is modified and has padded seats.
Over the last four weeks, the cycle has raised almost €27,000, which includes a €5,000 donation from Tomar Trust, who had already allocated €30,000 to a local community project and topped it up as they were very impressed with the cycle. Initially, the organisers of the cycle set a target of €3,000.
“When we set the €3,000 target over a five-week time frame I was wondering were we expecting too much. After three or four days, we had reached €3,000. We weren’t expecting the huge response.
“People have donated large amounts of €50 and €100 on our GoFundMe page. This was really overwhelming.
“I think the response is down to Julie and the project, which will help people of all abilities and disabilities. Julie will be one of the main beneficiaries of the garden, which was the reason for the cycle, but from our own experience life can be challenging so it is important that others will also benefit.
“Boher National School has been amazing and it is nice to give something back to the community.”
The sensory garden, which was developed by special needs assistant, Dawn Kenny, about seven years ago, needed to be upgraded and made more accessible for people with additional needs.
The group has raised €134,000 over the past year for the project, which will renovate the Boher Sensory Garden, outdoor geodome and install inclusive play equipment for all abilities at the rear of Boher National School.
Money from the cycle will ensure the group will be able to provide additional equipment that wasn’t covered in the funding it has received to date.
While the national school will be one of the main users of the new facilities, they will also be made available to the local community.
Contracts for this ambitious €134,000 project were signed last March and Nicola is delighted with progress to date.
“This is very exciting for Boher because people aren’t used to seeking developments like this. Boher has a church, school and small parish hall. The Boher community would rely a lot on what Ballina would offer for recreational facilities.
Now, we are hoping Ballina people will come to Boher. Securing the funding was like winning the lottery.”
The group was established in April 2020 with the aim of improving community integration and socialisation. It is entirely voluntary and consists of five members from the locality – chairperson – Nicola Welford, secretary – Edel Quirke, treasurer – Paul McKeogh, and committee members Dawn Kenny and Niamh Hogan.
Members started meeting for the first time last June and continued weekly Zoom meetings until September to prepare the application.
The group secured LEADER funding of €100,684 from North Tipperary Development Company, in excess of €30,000 from the Tomar Trust and €25,000 from the local community.
Funds will be used to refurbish and develop the community’s existing sensory garden into a biodiverse garden and community amenity, with universal access for the entire community.
This project will deliver a universally accessible wet pour safety surface, new inclusive sensory play equipment, and planting systems to encourage a biodiverse wildlife population in the amenity.
The project will also include the construction of an access ramp, footpaths, and a carpark with dedicated disabled parking spaces.
Particularly exciting is the plan to install a bespoke glass geodome for use for propagation and indoor gardening; and as a classroom and community facility for talks, club meetings, and social events.
The geodome will be only one of two currently in Ireland and a truly unique space to have available to local groups.
It will also be made available to local groups who may wish to engage in community gardening or to facilitate educational activities about gardening and biodiversity.
Work has started on this project, which is expected to be completed by the summer.
By Dan Danaher