Loreto Hockey’s O’Donnell is Volunteer of the Year

by Cóilín Duffy

LORETO Hockey Clubs Bronwyn O’Donnell received the Dublin award, as volunteers from across the country were honoured at the EBS Volunteers in Sport Awards in Farmleigh House at the Phoenix Park in Dublin last week.

The awards were created to recognise the contributions, commitment and dedication of the 450,000 volunteers who give their time to Irish sport across Ireland’s 14,000 registered sports clubs and associations.

Bronwyn has been volunteering in hockey for over 40 years, holding almost every role, from Club captain, President to Secretary and Development Officer.

She says that the award is recognition of the great work put in by all in the club.

“First of all I didn’t know I was nominated from Loreto Hockey Club,” she told Dublin Gazette at the awards.

“I’m very honoured and very humbled to be here, because it’s a great day for myself, but also for my club and for hockey clubs throughout Ireland, because there are so many people in so many clubs, not just in hockey, but all over that are the backbone. These are all volunteers and they are people that do so much for the clubs.

“It was interesting to hear today about 450,000 people volunteering, because sport in Ireland can’t continue to grow unless people put themselves up and come forward. I’m very honoured to accept this, but I’m also very aware that there are hundreds of thousands of people who do huge work for so many clubs.”

Sustaining the growth is a hard challenge and that’s where the voluntary effort comes in.

“In our Junior section we have around 500 children from Senior Infants up to 4th Class. It’s not possible to run a Junior section with 500 without the involvement of the parents. Like your GAA models and Soccer models, and that’s what it is. We have parents who are acting as managers, they are running around picking up the kit. They are running around getting sponsorship for teams and all of this sort of thing. It is a real community spirit.

“Out of all of those managers, we started a project about three years ago called the ‘Summer Hockey Mum’s’. We sent out a text to every one who was a mother in the Junior section, saying that ‘you’ve stood on the sideline, for the next 10 weeks it’s your time, come out and learn the game of Hockey’. We thought we would have 25 people. The first day they turned out I nearly died, there was over 70. I thought to myself ‘how would I sort them out’,

“We ran that for 10 weeks, and then we had a massive big community event. All the Dads came in and the kids came down and we had a BBQ. It’s now become a massive Community event with 400-500 people. Now a number those mums, apart from doing the 10-week coaching, have come back to do coaching courses and some of them are managers. Some of them have come back to play in the Senior club as well.”

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