Cian O’Grady and Carla McErlean named All-Ireland Youth Volunteers of the Year

09 March 2016

Students honored at 2016 Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards gala by guest presenter Bressie

At Thursday’s gala award ceremony, held at Lough Eske Castle Hotel & Spa, Donegal, Cian and Carla each received €1,000 for a charity of their choice and a gold medallion presented by multi-platinum selling songwriter and music producer Niall Breslin (Bressie). In May, Cian and Carla will travel on an all-expenses paid trip to Washington D.C. to meet up with youth volunteers from across America and participate in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards ceremony.

Cian,a sixth year student at John the Baptist Community School in Limerick has undertaken volunteering both in his local community and in Limerick more widely. He volunteers in the soup kitchen for St. Vincent de Paul and at St. Michael’s nursing home in Caherconlish. His main role is to help organise the street festivals and family fun days in the community. Cian also helps provide dinners in the local hall six times a year, which enables both locals and older people to come together for a social afternoon. He also sits on the ‘Tidy Towns’ committee in his area and volunteers with the Simon Community to raise funds for homeless people each Christmas.

From Co. Derry, Carla is a sixth form student at Loreto College. Since the loss of her best friend in September 2014 to a brain tumour, Carla has been motivated to do something out of the ordinary to make her friend proud by raising funds for cancer charities. Carla organised various events with her closest friends in memory of her friend Anna, raising over £11,000 for Cancer Fund for Children. She also coordinated ‘The Goosebury Festival,’ a special event held at Anna’s house which raised over £20,000 for Cancer Fund for Children and the Cancer Unit in Belfast.

The only all-Ireland youth initiative of its kind, the Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards programme recognises young people for their motivation, service and impact on their local communities across the island of Ireland.

“Congratulations to all of the 20 finalists who are inspiring individuals. It really is testament to their character to be nominated in the 2016 Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards and I am honoured to be able to acknowledge the dedication and commitment they have shown in giving back to their communities,” said Bressie in his keynote address. “Cian and Carla are extraordinary youth ambassadors who are actively making a difference in their communities, and it has been a pleasure to celebrate their accomplishments.”

The programme is run in partnership with The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), The General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI), Scouting Ireland and Foróige. Highly commended in the junior category were Adrian McMyler from Co Donegal and Annagh McBreen from Co Cavan.

“In this special 10th anniversary year, we’re honoured to showcase young people’s commitment to volunteerism and tonight’s 20 finalists are no exception,” said Caroline Faulkner, senior managing director, Pramerica Systems Ireland. “Their stories are truly remarkable, especially those of Carla and Cian who have proved to be wonderful role models and are inspiring individuals.”

The selection committee that chose the two All-Ireland Youth Volunteers of the Year were: Andrea McBride, Vice President - Systems, Pramerica Systems Ireland, Ivan Arbuthnot, Chairperson of GTCNI, Wendy Osborne, OBE and Chief Executive of Volunteer Now, Sean Campbell, CEO, Foroige, Nina Arwitz, Chief Executive of Volunteer Ireland, Clive Byrne, Director of NAPD, Kieran Cody, Scouting Ireland.

The 2016 Finalists:

- Annagh McBreen from Bailiebrough, Co. Cava
- Adrian McMyler from Buncrana, Co. Donegal
- Aoife Harrington from Athy, Co. Kildare
- Carla McErlean from Kilrea, Co. Derry
- Chloe Austin from Lurgan, Co. Armagh
- Cian O Grady from Limerick
- Curtis Johnston from Antrim town
- David Boyce from Askeaton, Co. Limerick
- Emma Moriarty from Walkinstown, Dublin
- Grace Ferrick from Curracloe, Enniscorthy
- Grace Fitzpatrick from Belfast
- Helen McFadden from Castlebar, Co Mayo
- Katie Callaghan from Newtownabbey, Co Antrim.
- Lauren McAreavey from Belfast
- Nathan O'Kane from Antrim town
- Rachel Hurley from Ballyburden, Cork
- Rosin McErlain from Portglenone, Ballymena
- Róisín Neville from Cork
- Sarah Connor from Ballybrit, Galway
- Vanessa Donovan from, Dublin