The Irish Wheelchair Association ‘Sunshine Club’, Athlone is a social club which caters for young people with disabilities within the community.
Meeting once a month, children with physical and sensory disabilities come together to participate in a range of activities such as trips to the cinema, bowling, shopping, pantomimes at Christmas and community links. The Sunshine Club have 15 members who decide for themselves what activities or trips they would like to avail for the year.
Not only does the club offer a few hours respite for the families of its members but also provides activities where members and extended families come together for team building days. An important aspect of the club and team building days is that it has helped parents and family members of other children with disabilities to bond and share information and advice with each other.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the monthly Sunshine Club has not been able to take place, so monthly activity packs tailored to suit the needs of its members were assembled.
“For the month of May we used the garden as an inspiration because of the beautiful weather and as a way to encourage the members to explore the outdoors. We sourced Insect hotels to be included in the pack, which were kindly sponsored by the Athlone Branch of Irish Wheelchair Association.
“An insect or bug hotel is a man-made structure made out of wood and clippings which encourages wildlife and biodiversity into the garden. It provides shelter for insects particularly during winter months. What we were hoping to capture was that although places are in lockdown, our Sunshine Club has hotels of a different kind opening up,” Monica Hughes, Service Co-Ordinator, Athlone IWA, commented.
Setting off on the journey with the packs and hotels were frontline workers, John Tynan and Maureen Lee. One member who was delighted to receive the activity pack and gift was Shauna Wallace. Shauna is a niece of staff member, Maureen Lee. As well as this been a great opportunity to deliver the packs and check in on the younger members, it was also a reunion for Shauna and Maureen due to restrictions being in place since early March.
“This new initiative has been a really good example of the way people are over coming COVID-19 restrictions in order to include the more vulnerable members of our society. This Outreach initiative promotes the independences of our younger members and offers a new means of communication and sense of belonging in our community. Most of all these projects offer a fun unique way to become involved in new experiences, take for example our Insect Hotel and Biodiversity theme,” Monica concluded.