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Home » Breaking News » West Clare school kicks off its astroturf fundraising campaign
St Joseph's National School, Miltown Malbay pupils; Erin Jones, John Lynch, Lucy Foran, Aiveen Sexton, Emma O Brien, Fiain Dennehy, Caleb Malone and Oran Meade with Principal Aidan Looney launching their fundraising drive to develop a multi-use games area including an Astro-Turf pitch on the School grounds as a School/Community joint project. Photograph by John Kelly

West Clare school kicks off its astroturf fundraising campaign

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GENERATIONS of students and the wider community will benefit for years to come, thanks to an ambitious project to invest €250,000 in an astroturf facility at St Joseph’s National School, Miltown Malbay.

An information and fundraising campaign for an all-weather pitch will be launched at the school at 2pm on Friday (February 3). The event will showcase the multiple benefits for pupils, local clubs and sporting organisations, as well as the Miltown community as a whole. 

Principal of the 113-pupil school, Mr Aidan Looney said that while significant work had been done on the school building over the years, the outdoor facilities were in need of an upgrade. “Part of the school building dates to 1963 and the second phase was done in 1973,” he outlined.

“In 2008, I secured funding for an indoor refurbishment, but there has been no real development of the outdoor playing facilities in all of that time.”

Thanks to a funding boost of €50,000 from CLÁR, momentum gathered behind the project to provide year-round facilities for the school and the community. “We got the funding and what we did with it was completely open to us,” Mr Looney added.

“The Board of Management decided to go for the astroturf and we got a very generous donation of land from our near neighbours, who are also parents at the school. Our current field is only playable in May and June so we’re working towards an astroturf of 30m by 45m with a five-lane sprint track down one side.

“We’ll also have a biodiversity area around the pitch with flower beds and raised beds for vegetables. We’re planning a bird-feeding station and outdoor exercise machines with an outdoor classroom for use when weather permits.

“We’ll have a ball wall too, where boys and girls can practise football, hurling, tennis and basketball. We consider this to be essential to the mental and physical health and wellbeing of students, as well as their social development. There will be space and buddy benches where students can just sit and talk together and where people can read a book or play board games.”

The benefits of the facility will be available to the wider community outside of school hours, at weekends and during the holidays. “We’ll be offering up the facility and we want people to know that this astroturf will be available to all kinds of groups for all kinds of activities,” he said. “We’re located on the edge of Miltown, so it’s a great spot in terms of access.”

Because the school has hosted musical classes and gatherings of all kinds for events including Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy and the Concertina Crinniú, Mr Looney is optimistic that the musical community will get also involved in fundraising efforts. 

In terms of fundraising, the target is to generate €100,000 and Mr Looney believes there is huge goodwill and a great community spirit that will be of invaluable assistance. Paying tribute to a former chairperson of the Board of Management, John Reidy, who was passed away in recent days, Mr Looney said his generous spirit would inspire the campaign to build the astroturf facility. “John was a tireless volunteer in so many organisations and he worked at all times to leave Miltown a better place,” Mr Looney said.

“That is our ambition in developing this facility. We want to leave a better place for future staff, students and the community. We are asking the community to come together and get behind our efforts to create a facility that will benefit the area for years and years to come.”

To-date, the project has benefitted from the expertise of parents and other volunteers who have given their time and skills free-of-charge. “Tomás McKenna is one of our parents and has given us huge help in planning the development,” Mr Looney said. “David McLoughlin from Ennis priced the work for us, free-of-charge and Councillor Joe Garrihy has been a great help in terms of access the additional government funds that we will need to secure to complete the work.”

Friday will see the launch of the campaign’s iDonate page and provide an opportunity for parents, community and sports club members to learn more about how they can support and benefit from the astroturf project.

“At 2pm, we’ll finish all classes for the day and everyone will be invited to learn more about the astroturf pitch,” Mr Looney explained.

“Michael Neylon, who is one of our parents, will discuss the importance of this facility in terms of wellbeing. We’ll also be showing a video which was shot for us by Ian Sexton. We also have 3D still images to show what the facility will look like when it’s complete.

“Our Board of Management will be there as well as councillors from the area and we’ll have tea and coffee and an opportunity to chat about fundraising. At the moment, we’re open to all kinds of events and activities. We’re also documenting the project at all of its stages, because one day this campaign will be part of the history of the school.

Full details are available on iDonate as well as the Facebook and Instagram accounts of Miltown Malbay National School. 

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