THE cause of the humble volunteer was championed at the glittering Hotel Kilkenny and Kilkenny People sports star banquet on Friday night.
The dedicated volunteers behind the Thomastown United AFC ‘Football for All’ programme were honoured for their services to sport.
Thomastown coaches Bernie Costelloe and Stephen Norton were presented with the Endeavour Award, the second highest honour in the scheme, in recognition of the work being done to reach out to people who might not otherwise get the chance to play sport.
The Endeavour Award is a recognition award which is presented annually to some person or group who make a contribution to the promotion of sport, either as a player or administrators.
The citation read: “The humble volunteer is at the heart of so much that is so good in this country, both in urban and rural Ireland. The volunteer and volunteers are the unsung heroes of many a success story.
“Without the volunteer, the person who largely undertakes a job simply because they see a need to be filled, many a talent would be left uncultivated and would ultimately be lost.
“Volunteers, at some level or other, most likely helped foster the talented performers we ejoyed watching at the London Olmypics this summer; our hurlers and footballers who grace Croke Park and all the other big venues; our rugby and soccer players who light up the Aviva Stadium and so many stadia across the world, and so on and so on.
“Achievement and success can be a wide and surprising variant. It is not always about victories, records or even medals. It can be simply in the doing.
“Kilkenny has a long and proud tradition for championing the cause of those with a need. There are always people who want to help, who want to make a difference.
“And in picturesque Thomastown a merry band of volunteers who have chosen that path. There is no budget for their work. Their currency is not measured in euro or cents, but rather in time and effort, and, of course, enjoyment. The sheer enjoyment they get from the work is their reward.
“Thomastown United soccer club is involved in the ‘Football for All’ programme. This is sport for all with no boundaries, and is aimed at children aged 6 to 14 with intellectual or physical disabilities. No one is excluded.
“The ‘Football for All’ concept is aimed at giving regular football training that might eventually lead to competition through a local community club.
“Thomastown United are the lone promoters of this particular concept in Kilkenny. ‘Football for All’ is organised in conjunction with the Football Association of Ireland, People with Disabilities Ireland, the Department of the Environment plus the involved of the Kilkenny Recreation and Sports Partnership. The simple aim is to promote ‘inclusion’.
“Everybody, regardless of their ability, has the opportunity to be involved, to play football. In Thomastown participation in the Saturday afternoon sessions at the all weather club pitches is not confined to the children. It also involves their families.
“And like many a great idea, the initiative was sparked almost by accident. Thomastown club secretary, Bernie Costelloe was attending a Kilkenny and District League Management meeting one evening when a circular from the FAI concerning the ‘Football for All’ programme was read out.
No one excluded
“As someone who works with children with disabilities, her interest was sparked. The idea was an easy sell to the Thomastown club. Interested volunteers opened a door into sport for children who might otherwise be excluded.”
The Hotel Kilkenny and Kilkenny People Sports Star Committee saluted the volunteers at Thomastown United soccer club who work tirelessly for the cause.
Thomastown United continue to reach out, to open up a pathway into sport. In recognition of their unfailing work for a section of society that might be forgotten or overlooked, the Hotel Kilkenny and Kilkenny People presented them with the Endeavour Award.
The presentation was made by Kilkenny People managing director, Irene Hamilton.