Cerebral Palsy is no obstacle to Charlie, 15, in the Scouts

by Sylvia Pownall

Dublin Bus driver Joe Watson is well known for his banter with passengers – but for many, his real claim to fame is as a leader with the 164th Scout Troop in Swords.

The 47-year-old first began volunteering with the Brackenstown unit nine years ago because he wanted his eldest son, Charlie, to get involved in a social activity.

Charlie, now 15, has Cerebral Palsy and Joe was keen for him to broaden his horizons and experiences and indulge his love of outdoor pursuits.

He told Dublin Gazette: “When Charlie was born we were told he’d never walk, he’d never talk, he’d be blind, he’d be fed through a tube.

“I remember being outside Crumlin Hospital crying … but look at him now. He’s out cycling a bike, he’s in Scouts, he’s active and doing everything he wants to do.

“When we entered him into Beavers, he used a walker at the time but he still went on all the trips. Then when he moved up to Cubs, one of the leaders asked me to get involved and that was that.

“They say it’s one hour a week, but I volunteer a lot more than that. My wife Sinead doesn’t see much of me, but if you commit to something you have to follow through.

“I love it and so do the kids.”

Charlie is now a seasoned Scout and is showing the ropes to his younger sister, Ella (13, pictured above). Daniel (9) is now in Cubs and seven-year-old Blake is in Beavers.

Joe, from Abbeyvale, said: “They make friends for life and they also learn skills that will see them through life. It’s all about teamwork at the end of the day.

“That is where the Community Spirit Awards come in because it pushes the focus of community and working together.”

The Swords dad-of-four says volunteering has become a vocation – and he is encouraging community groups to apply for a Community Spirit Award grant to reward their efforts.

Voluntary and community groups based in any area served by Dublin Bus are eligible to apply for the grants of up to €5,000 which have been put to good use by other Fingal organisations including Portrane Hockey Club.

Joe said: “Charlie is in the middle of his Junior Cert exams but at times you’d think there’s no exams going on in the house.

“If he was any more laid back, he’d be asleep. He’s amazing, he’s an inspiration to me – he’s an inspiration to everyone he meets.

“In general, we don’t give our kids enough credit, but I couldn’t ask for better than mine, they’re great kids.”

• Applications for the 2019 Dublin Bus Community Spirit Awards are available now on www.dublinbus.ie and will be accepted up to 5pm on July 12.

Any voluntary and community group based in an area served by Dublin Bus is eligible to apply for a grant of €1,000, €2,000 or €5,000.

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