Broadcasters and celebrities were out in force to crown Ireland’s Hidden Heroes at a national awards ceremony in the Intercontinental Hotel, Dublin on Monday afternoon.The Hidden Hearing Heroes Awards is an annual awards ceremony that recognises the achievements of people, young and old, who have made a significant contribution to Irish society, in their community, workplace, family or through sporting excellence.
20 people and organisations were recognised at the Hidden Hearing Heroes Awards ceremony, including heroes across categories such as Age is no Barrier, Young Hero and Triumph Over Adversity.
An ‘Outstanding Recognition Award’ was presented this year to Vera Twomey. Vera has been leading an ongoing campaign to allow her daughter Ava to receive medicinal cannabis products to help with her condition. Ava suffers from a severe form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome, and can suffer from several seizures a day.
See full details of the winners below
1. Age is no Barrier Hero
Special Recognition – Joe MacAvin
Joe MacAvin, 82 is from Kilkenny. Joe is the co-founder of 3Ts suicide prevention charity. The charity was established in 2003 to raise awareness of the issue of and prevent deaths by suicide. He was a director for many years and now remains an active committee member. Under Joe, in its first year alone, 3Ts raised €100,000 which was distributed to 10 key groups. Joe organised candlelight vigils in Dublin and Wexford to mark World Suicide Prevention day and these were the first such events held in Ireland to honour loved ones lost to suicide. Now in his 80s, Joe continues his work with the committee as a volunteer, raising awareness and organising activities and events.
Age is no Barrier Hero - Brigid Heery
Brigid has done tremendous work over the past 25 years with the Ballinacree Community Association. One of the projects that Brigid brought to fruition was the purchasing of an old school and renovating it to a state-of-the-art community centre. More recently, after a 17-year campaign she championed a new footpath to enhance safety on a busy road. Brigid’s colleague said of Brigid, “she makes the impossible possible in such a quiet manner without a fuss or recognition, she inspires me everyday and touches everyone who meets her through her gentleness and warmth”.
2. Healthcare Hero
Special Recognition – Watermans Lodge
Watermans Lodge is based in Ballina, Co.Tipperary and is a day care and respite centre for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The wonderful staff at the lodge help and guide family members if big decisions are required e.g. choosing a nursing home. The nominator shared a very personal story which shows how the staff went beyond the call of duty to care for their loved one. When this families loved one was very weak, they looked after him as if he was their own family member all the while providing tremendous support to the family. Even when he passed away, the Watermans Lodge team formed a guard of honour as the funeral cortege left.
Healthcare Hero – Dr Phil Halligan
Dr Phil Halligan has made a major impact to students registered with a disability in transitioning to university life in UCD and supporting their journey in higher education. In addition to her role as an academic and through her personal leadership (all in her own time evenings and weekends) she has been innovative in developing key inclusive projects and practices in the school for students and in the affiliated hospitals where students are seconded to learn in practice. She has also refined processes to help these students to succeed, including meeting with every individual student at the beginning of each term to create an individual learning plan.
3. Sporting Hero
Special Recognition – Brendan Dempsey
Brendan is from Drimnagh in Dublin and is 65-years-old. He was nominated by his daughter who explained that Brendan has been coaching and managing soccer in the Drimnagh area for the past 40 years. This is despite having severe Osteoarthritis including 4 total hip replacements. He was recently honoured by the Lord Mayor Brendan Carr in the Mansion House for his tireless work.
Sporting Hero – William O’Keeffe
William is from Drogheda and is 64 years old. He was nominated by his daughter Nicole for many reasons. He is currently a youth worker in an after-school programme for children living in disadvantaged areas. He has raised thousands of euro for various charities in many ways including roller skating from Tralee to Limerick in 6 hours – it took four pairs of skates – which raised €10,000 for Gorta. In a team of four he pulled a 60-tonne coal truck for about 300 yards which raised about €10,000 which might have been helped by the fact that he is an All-Ireland champion in bodybuilding, weightlifting and power lifting. His healthy lifestyle has allowed him to complete challenges for charity and his daughter said ‘he is completely selfless in everything that he does’
4. Deaf/Hard of Hearing Hero
Special Recognition – Karen Chadwick
Karen is from Portlaoise and is going deaf due to a genetic condition. She wanted to raise awareness for Irish Sign Language (ISL) in the community so she started signing classes for adults and children which are free of charge. Due to her efforts, ISL will be taught in a local school. She is raising awareness in her local community and teaching that ISL should be as easy as talking English.
Deaf/Hard of Hearing Hero – Jane Moules
Jane is from Aughrim, Co Wicklow and at 33 Jane became a widow and a lone parent to a 9-year-old daughter and disabled twin sisters, aged 4 (one with ADHD and learning issues and the other has a heart condition, epilepsy, asthma and learning/speech issues). The hearing in one of her ears was deteriorating but Jane’s priority at the time was to ensure her children were looked after first. Her daughter says, “this was the most selfless act ever as she put us three as a priority over the risk of losing her hearing”
Special Recognition -John Looney
Having had a sick daughter who was taken on trips by a Dublin-based charity, John joined forces with other CUH volunteers and set up a Cork-based charity the ‘Cork City Hospitals Children’s Club,’ which brings sick children to Euro Disney. John has worked tirelessly over the past 21 years and most recently, a group of 75 – including 4 very deserving families – went on a four-day adventure to Euro Disney. John works tirelessly to put a smile on children and their families faces when life is not going so well for them.
CSR/Diversity Hero – Jean Avery
Jean is a Service Leader with Friends First and heads up the ‘Friends in the Community’ charity programme which supports three charities for a two-year period aligned with their business values. The three distinct elements of Friends in the Community which are the local schools programme, community support and the charity programme. Jean organises and supports a wide range of activities to assist the three charities and she encourages others to engage in activities and is a great support to both the staff and charities.
6. Unsung Hero
Special Recognition – Jim Jacob
Jim is from Enniscorthy, Co Wexford and in July he saved a man’s life by jumping into the River Slaney and pulling him to safety. Jim gave no thought to his own life and without hesitation just jumped in to the cold, fast flowing river.
Unsung Hero – Tom Gannon
Tom was nominated by his daughter Sadbh. Tom works alongside a group of hardworking people with the Dublin-based Irish Coast Guard. Daily these crews put their lives at risk to save others. Recently Tom was involved with the rescue of two men in the Atlantic whose boat capsized. This rescue was extremely dangerous and difficult as it was the furthest ever rescue done by the Irish crew making the conditions life threatening.
7. Young Hero
Special Recognition – Kara Rose Black
Kara is big hearted nine-year-old and from Buncrana, Co Donegal. On her seventh birthday in 2015, Kara donated her hair to charity to make wigs for children after her school friend had lost her hair due to cancer treatment. As well as that, she has raised over €1,000 for the Irish Heart Foundation in memory of her great gran Agnes and the Irish Cancer Society in memory of her grandmother Margaret and her great grandad John. Last July, Kara donated her hair again and raised over €300 for charity. When she asked her mum about donating her hair this year, her mum Michelle said that she had already done it and she didn’t need to do it again, Kara replied, “Mum, my hair will grow back, please let me do it”.
Young Hero – Archie Naughton
Archie Naughton is 11 and from Roscommon. He has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy which is a muscle wasting disease. He has twin brothers George and Isaac who are 7 and they also have Duchenne. In 2014 a group of Archie’s parent’s friends set up a voluntary organisation called ‘Join Our Boys’ and in 2015 they held an international conference to highlight the need for improvement in how children with Duchenne in Ireland are treated. There is no cure for Duchenne and Archie understands this but he wants to work with his parents to ensure they find a cure for the disease. Each day Archie is faced with new challenges but he continues to remain positive and refuses to let the disease get him down.
8. Family Hero
Special Recognition – Trish Rowley
When Trish’s father died of cancer, he left two small children behind. Trish came from a large family but she and her partner Jason took on the girls and reared them as their own. Trish and Jason married and went on to have two children of their own. Their eldest child Conor has special needs and requires 24/7 care. Trish also looks after two elderly uncles who live close by. As well as looking after her own family, Trish also works weekends as a special needs carer. Jason says, “My amazing wife always puts everyone else first and she’s a mammy to one and all, Thanks”.
Family Hero – Conor Grassick
Conor, 24 is from Drumcondra in North Dublin. In April, this year, his mum was diagnosed with leukemia when getting a cast removed. Conor’s 20-year-old brother Colin has autism and Prader-Willi syndrome. Conor took over the role of managing the house. It has been very hard for the family to get support so it is a 24 hour job for Conor. Conor is a Taekwondo champion and represented Ireland at world championships which were held in Korea last June. His mum Ann knows that she would not be able to fight so strongly against her illness if she did not have Conor’s ongoing support. She says “Conor will never know how much he has done and continues to do for us as a family”.
9. Triumph over Adversity- Jillian McNulty
Jillian McNulty suffers from Cystic Fibrosis. More recently she has fought for the new drug Orkambi to be available to CF patients in Ireland. She led a political campaign through the support of the media showing how Orkambi had changed her life. In April 2017, she won her campaign and the drug was approved. Jillian put hours and hours of work into the campaign and her mother Finola couldn’t be more proud of her saying, “She doesn’t realise it but she will save more lives now that Orkambi has been made available”. Thank you for all your hard work Jillian.
10. Unsung Heroine
Special Recognition Hero- Keira Gill
Keira is from Ayrfield in North Dublin. In 2015 she set up, with her best friend Karl, a mobile soup kitchen which runs twice a week in Dublin city centre. She has fed 100s of people and helped others find permanent accommodation. She gave up a full-time hairdressing job to go back to college to become a social worker. Her friend Laura says “Keira shows true compassion and what it means to stand up for what is right and just in society. Her group bring so much dignity and hope to a “forgotten by many” sector, in society”.
Unsung Heroine – Davina Flaherty
In 2013, Davina was diagnosed with a brain tumour. When she was seven she had surgery for hydrocephalus which was as a result of the tumour. She had a nine-hour surgery which removed 95% of the tumour but resulted in double vision and ataxia. Recently, Davina was diagnosed with Scheunemann’s disease, which affects the spine, she is currently waiting for a fitting for a back brace. At 11, Davina has already gone through so much in her short life and does so with such positivity and endurance, she is an inspiration to us all. Her mum Colette says “She is the bubbliest girl and has a huge character. We adore her and think she’s amazing”.
Charity winner – CMRF – Crumlin Children’s Hospital
A €2000 charity donation was made to CMRF on the day.
Thank you to all our nominees & friends who attended this very special day.