Volunteers honoured by awards dedicated to hours devoted to Irish Sport

by Stephen Findlater

Bronwyn O’Donnell says sport has given her so much in life that she is “more than happy to give back” her time as part of Irish sport’s incredible volunteer army. 

In 2019, she was selected as the Dublin winner of the 2019 Federation of Irish Sport Volunteers in Sport Awards, supported by EBS, for her tireless work with Loreto Hockey Club in Beaufort. 

From club captain to President, Secretary to Development Officer, O’Donnell has been a driving force at the club for the guts of 40 years. 

She started out with the club as a player in the first team in her teenage years and while she admits she is dropping down the teams these days – having some success with the second, third and fourth teams along the way – she is passionate about giving back. 

“I love the sport of hockey, the comradeship and the friendships made, and am more than happy to give back because I have got so much out of the club,” she said of her involvement. 

Crucially, she was the driving force behind Summer Hockey for Mums, a club initiative which has grown over the last three years, bringing up to 70 participants into the sport each time. More than that, the project had an exponential benefit for all involved. 

“We were thinking of ways to get people back into the sport or start up playing? We sent out a note to all the junior section mums and said we will run a pilot for the next 10 weeks.  

“Come down, we’ll provide sticks, just bring a gumshield and shin pads, and we will teach you the game and have a little blitz at the end. We thought we would get 25 people – the first night, we had over 70 mums there.  

“At the end, we turned it into a big community event and there must have been 300 or 400 people. You had the mums, who brought the dads who brought their kids. It has become a really big event.  

“It’s not top class hockey but it’s people playing the game, some who never have before, some who played a bit in school. Those same people have joined our vets or volunteered for manager roles or check gear. It was a really successful way of getting people into it!” 

She is hopeful that this can snowball further with more joining the army of 450,000 volunteers in sport across Ireland who go above and beyond what is asked of them to ensure that sport takes place.  

These volunteers dedicate some 37.2 million hours of volunteering across the country’s 13,000 sports clubs and associations each year. 

Now more than ever, volunteers are a vital resource with Covid-19 requiring ever more people to offer their time, whether it be to wash balls or act as officers to ensure games go ahead safely. 

“I saw our club president Wendy Byrne out there disinfecting every ball that was touched,” O’Donnell said of her own club’s experiences. “These are changing times and more requirements for safety for everyone. These new jobs require more people to put their hand up. 

“People were so pleased to be back training again last month, even in the lashing rain, after lockdown; people of all different abilities thrilled to get back out.  

“We are going to appreciate sport more and more in the current climate. During lockdown, a lot of work into the back to play protocols with our Covid committee to see what we could do to get back playing. That’s people giving their time to get us back out there because they love it and are delighted to be back!” 

** In partnership with the Federation of Irish Sport, EBS wants to recognise the dedication and passion of these volunteers by honouring them at an awards ceremony.  

They are calling on the Irish public to nominate a volunteer in their sport who they would like to see recognised at the 2020 Volunteers in Sport Awards, which will be held at Croke Park on Monday, November 16th, 2020.  

To nominate an everyday hero, visit http://www.volunteersinsport.ie/. Nominations can be made by a club, individual or sporting body and are open until September 25th, 2020. 

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