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Connie says goodbye after 16 years at Ballyspillane Centre

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FOND FAREWELL: Pictured at Ballyspillane Resource Centre for the retirement celebrations of Project Coordinator Connie O'Leary from front l-r: Josie Slattery (Treasurer BOM) Eibhlín Ní Chathain (Chairperson BOM) Connie O'Leary Theresa O'Neill (Childcare & Preschool Manager) and Derek O'Leary (Incoming Project Project Coordinator). Back row l-r: Ann Moynihan (TUSLA PPFS) Cathy O'Sullivan (TUSLA PPFS) Denny Hayes (Administrator) Marian McCabe (CDW) Norma Costello (Front Office) Kayleigh Power (Family Support Officer) Louise Kiely (Family Support Worker) Sophie Haighway (Front Office) and Gerardine Breen (Front Office). Photo: Marie Carroll-O'Sullivan

With a commute of less than five minutes on foot door to door to her place of work, Connie O'Leary is the definition of the 'heart of the community'.

She has more than given back to society since she moved into her home in Ballyspillane in 1979.

After 16 years in the role, Connie is hanging up her boots as Project Coordinator at Ballyspillane Family Resource Centre.

She has always held the best interests for Ballyspillane from the word go!

"I was very lucky to have worked with the best"

Keeping the O'Leary name in passing on the reins, Derek O'Leary, (who recently appeared in last month's 'Marie Meets', with Killarney Musical Society) will succeed in filling those rather large boots!

From being a resident in the community of Ballyspillane to Project Project Coordinator at this beautiful establishment Connie, tell me how it began?

"As we lived in the area, I decided to volunteer with the local residents association in 1994 having completed Youth & Community Development Studies with UCC. With two other members of the residents committee at the time, we set up a Youth Club in Ballyspillane which we ran together for five years, and in 1995 I was elected as Chairperson of the Residents Association and held that position until 2005," Connie said.

"My role as Project Coordinator began from a store room with another member of staff at the time working out of our community facility with two rooms. In 2005 we were thrilled to be awarded Government funding to build a new centre, which was completed in 2009. Working in the community sector is never without challenges, but I knew I loved it and this is where I wanted to be. The reward is seeing the changes the services and the facilities offer to peoples' lives and the feedback from parents and local principals of the schools in our area kept us all going. It is hugely rewarding. Sitting in my office here today at the purpose-built Ballyspillane Family Resource and Childcare Centre, with a team of 20 staff providing a universal range of community and family support services to families and communities in the Killarney Municipal District area, gives me great pleasure to see how far we have come since I began my position here. It has been a shared journey in supporting the community together. We are a team here in Ballyspillane and always have been. From the different Board of Managements down through the years, to the community volunteers, past staff and the wonderful present team, I was very lucky to have worked with the best. The centre is bright, welcoming and vibrant, and offers a range of family support services including a high quality childcare service for parents and children. I am very proud to call it my place of work."

Connie, can you give me a brief outline of what services the centre offers to the public?

There are many but here are a few - community childcare, crèche &and preschool, parenting programmes, Meitheals, strengthening families programmes, counselling and play therapy, summer camps, KETB LCYP creative youth projects, family support, and support for those in Direct Provision centres, health and well-being initiatives, domestic violence awareness campaigns, mental health and suicide prevention supports. There are many more Marie but I hope this gives you an insight of the daily happenings here at the Ballyspillane Resource Centre.

Throughout your term here at the Ballyspillane Resource Centre, what have been your most memorable or proudest moments?

"There are three that spring to mind. In 2011 we were thrilled with the wider acknowledgement by Kerry County Council as a nominee of places for Mary McAleese to visit, which she did. As well as our staff, we invited a resident from each household in Ballyspillane, local VIPs and representatives from our community groups were invited to attend on this special day. In 2012 we won Pride of Place and the theme of our application was celebrating 25 years of Community Development. In 2019, in partnership with the local Residents Association, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Ballyspillane Estate, inviting the many agencies we work with to celebrate with an ecumenical community blessing at the centre."

Having been such a huge rock to the community, how will you manage to pass the door given it's literally on your doorstep?

"I am ready to retire and spend time with my family and extended family who have supported me throughout my career since the very beginning. My husband Jimmy retired during COVID, a difficult time to establish new routine, so I am looking forward to spending time with him, my daughter Miriam, Dan, and my lovely grandson Éanna. I am delighted to be retiring and even more delighted with what has been achieved while here. As a family, we are looking forward to taking a break away in the coming weeks to celebrate my retirement as well as a special someone's significant birthday. I won't be idle Marie. I am still involved in a volunteer capacity in many areas. I am very confident in Derek, and I know he will continue to do a wonderful job in bringing the centre to the next level."

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Muckross Rowing Club members on Irish teams for two major regattas

  Six members of Muckross Rowing Club will compete for Ireland in two upcoming international events. Rowing Ireland this week announced the Irish squads for the Coupe de la Jeunesse […]

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Six members of Muckross Rowing Club will compete for Ireland in two upcoming international events.

Rowing Ireland this week announced the Irish squads for the Coupe de la Jeunesse Regatta.

Daniel Fleming and Ian Coffey have both been selected for the Under 19 Irish squad to race at the Coupe de la Jeunesse Regatta for European junior rowers. The Coupe de la Jeunesse Regatta, involving 16 European countries, will be held over from over three days, August 9-11 in Racice, Czechia.

Four Under 23 university rowers from the Muckross club have also been selected as part of the Senior Irish squad for the Home International Regatta this month.

Niamh Coffey (University of Limerick), Patrick Buckley (University of Limerick), Finn O’Sullivan (University of Limerick) and Ethan O’Neill (University College Cork Rowing Club) will take on the ‘Triple Crown’ event of rowing, competing for Ireland against crews from England, Scotland and Wales.

The Home International Regatta will be held on Saturday, July 27 in Strathclyde, Scotland.

All six Muckross rowers have earned their green jerseys following a lengthy and testing trial series on land and water which began in Autumn 2023 and culminated in final water trials at the end of June.

“Muckross Rowing Club sends its best wishes to the very talented Muckross oarsmen and women and all their crewmates as they fly the flag for Ireland this summer. The talented group build on a successful record in the sport,” said club PRO Tim O’Shea.

Niamh Coffey is a multiple Irish and University Championship winner and has previously represented Ireland in the Under 23 European Championships.

In 2022, O’Neill rowed at Junior level at the Home International event and won a gold medal as part of the Irish quadruple scull crew in the 500m sprint event.

Both Buckley and O’Sullivan continue to compete at the highest level nationally with the University of Limerick Rowing Club,  and join the Irish squad for the first time this year.

The international selections come at an exciting time before the Olympic Regatta in Paris, where Zoe Hyde (Tralee Rowing Club) will be among the largest Irish rowing contingent of 16 rowers to contest an Olympic Games.

Killorglin native Zoe has previously rowed for both Killorglin and Muckross rowing clubs and will race the Women’s Double event for Ireland with Alison Bergin (Fermoy Rowing Club) in Paris.

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Valuable role of Kerry cancer support charity recognised nationally

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Cancer support charity Recovery Haven Kerry has been recognised for its vital role in supporting cancer patients and their families at a national ceremony in Dublin.

The renowned cancer support house was one of 16 such centres across Ireland that were presented with plaques to acknowledge their full membership of the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) Alliance – a group made up of voluntary and charity organisations delivering support services directly to cancer patients and their families. An additional 10 associate member charities were also honoured, including Kerry Cancer Support Group.

The Alliance advocates for, and supports, the development of integrated pathways between the cancer centres, acute hospitals, community cancer support services and primary care services. All members’ development is in line with the values of Sláintecare, seeking to provide assurance to healthcare professionals that these organisations are working to an agreed standard as set out in Best Practice Guidance published by the NCCP. 

Speaking after the ceremony, which was held at Dublin’s Farmleigh Estate, Recovery Haven Kerry Chairman, Tim McSwiney, explained that being compliant with the Best Practice Guidance for Community Cancer Support Centres is a true mark of quality. 

“It offers us a yardstick to measure what we are doing against the standards required. As a result, healthcare professionals have more confidence in referring people to our services. We are very proud to be a member of the Alliance,” he said.

Recovery Haven Kerry was represented at the event by centre manager, Gemma Fort and Client Services Co-Ordinator, Siobhan MacSweeney and were presented with their plaque by NCCP Lead for Cancer Survivorship, Louise Mullen, Clinical Lead for Psycho-Oncology Dr Helen Greally, and Minister of State at the Department of Health, Colm Burke. 

The event was also used as an opportunity to announce funding of €3m for the NCCP’s Alliance of Community Cancer Support Centres and Services through Budget 2024. The NCCP is currently in the process of distributing these funds which will directly and positively impact the delivery of services for patients and families nationally.

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