While many teenagers spend their free time playing video games or hanging out with friends, one inspirational Claremorris student decided to spend his downtime volunteering at a local nursing home, chatting, walking, and reading with residents and even recruiting his friends to get involved.
It was this uplifting example of altruism that resulted in Luke Gibbons, a student of St Coleman’s College, Claremorris, being named among Ireland’s top 20 youth volunteers in 2014.
Luke (17 ) is now in with a chance to be named Pramerica’s Spirit of Community Youth Volunteer of the Year, which comes with a €1,000 prize and an all expenses paid trip to the US.
Luke became a volunteer after he spent some time visiting his grandmother at the Claremount Nursing Home.
He was inspired by the people and the place, and wanted to get involved and make a difference. He started volunteering at the home three times a week, chatting with residents, reading the newspapers to them, and accompanying them on walks.
He even organised a carol service for residents and recruited his friends to bring some festive cheer by helping out with Christmas decorations.
Speaking about the award, Luke said he felt “privileged” to be a part of the nursing home and the residents’ lives and to “share their life stories and experiences”.
Fiona Geraghty, nursing manager at Claremount Nursing Home, said Luke has really enhanced the residents’ quality of life.
“He treats them with dignity and respect, and has a remarkable ability to brighten up their day and lift their spirits,” she explained.
The Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards is the only programme in Ireland that honours and celebrates youth volunteerism.
This year’s judging panel described Luke’s efforts as “remarkable and inspiring”.
Senior managing director at Pramerica Systems Ireland Ltd, Caroline Faulkner, said the young volunteer was “a youth leader of today and...tomorrow”.
“His volunteerism is quite remarkable and his motivation is quite simple - to give back, to make a difference,” she added.