Meet Grandparent of the Year – kind Kathleen, 82, from Swords

by Sylvia Pownall

A Fingal woman in her eighties has won an award for the outstanding support and care she gives to her autistic grandchild.

Kathleen McGuinness from Swords was crowned Specsavers Grandparent of the Year for her devotion to her 11-year-old grandson, Anthony Bissett.

The 82-year-old matriarch, who is also a great-grandmother, was entered for the prestigious award by Anthony, who wanted to say ‘thank-you’ for all she does for him.

She said: “It’s such an honour and so touching to know that my grandchild is proud of my story, and that he cherishes our relationship. I am so proud of Anthony for his winning entry; I love him so much.”

In his written entry, Anthony outlined the special bond he shares with his beloved granny who, he revealed, gently covers his ears with her scarf when they’re out shopping as she knows loud noise upsets him.

He also detailed how Kathleen plays a vital role in his development, listening to his lively stories and providing guidance on a daily basis.

As his minder three days a week, Kathleen cooks for him and spoils him with his favourite food – as well as continuing to gather the entire family for a meal every Sunday.

Anthony’s mum, Ciara, said: “The way they interact with one another is just amazing – she is the apple of his eye. They both care and look after each other.

“It was Anthony who encouraged Kathleen to get her hearing tested. He thought she was suffering from hearing loss, as he had to shout more for her to hear him.

“Anthony and I, with my husband and daughter, go to Kathleen’s for dinner every Sunday. It’s his favourite time of the week.”

The Grandparent of the Year campaign was launched in October by Specsavers in association with Beaumont Hospital to highlight the role grandparents play in families and local communities.

Consultant ENT surgeon at Beaumont Peter Walshe said the hospital was “delighted” to be involved in such a “family and community-focused campaign”, adding that grandparents play a “pivotal role” in the lives of young people.

Grandchildren of all ages were asked to nominate their grandparents with a written entry on why they deserved the title. Kathleen was chosen from hundreds of entries following a nationwide search.

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