14 October 2023

~3 minutes read

Connaught region heroes recognised at the 2023 Special Olympics Ireland Volunteer Awards

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Connaught region heroes recognised at the 2023 Special Olympics Ireland Volunteer Awards

Local heroes Patricia Creaven, Tara McLoughlin and Teresa Ward recognised at the 2023 Special Olympics Ireland Volunteer Awards 

Patricia Creaven, Tara McLoughlin and Teresa Ward were amongst eighteen volunteers who were recognised for their outstanding contribution at the Special Olympics Ireland Volunteer Awards held at the Crowne Plaza Dublin Airport Hotel on Saturday September 23. 

Patricia Creaven, the Connaught Regional Volunteer of 2023 from Headford Co. Galway, has been an active volunteer since 2005, contributing at the club level and for events like the 2011 World Summer Games.

Tara McLoughlin, the Connaught Regional Youth Volunteer of 2023 from Strandhill, started volunteering in 2018 while still in school and now serves as the Chairperson of Sligo Young Athletes, all while studying medicine.

Distinguished Service Award winner Teresa Ward of Charlestown Co. Mayo has been involved with Special Olympics Ireland since joining the Western Care Association in February 1995. Teresa’s passion for sport led her to immediately recognize the potential of introducing sports and recreational opportunities to children and adults with intellectual disabilities and she was one the main reasons the Special Olympics programme started in the Connaught region. Her voluntary work with Special Olympics over the years continued at committee and event level and ensured that the programme grew into the success it is today. 

The evening commenced with a warm welcome from the event MC, sports broadcaster Gráinne McElwain, who emphasized the vital role of volunteers in empowering Special Olympics athletes to reach their fullest potential. Notable presentations were made on the day from Special Olympics athletes Jonathan Deering and Emma Johnstone, Special Olympics Ireland CEO Matt English, and Special Olympics Ireland Board members Dr. Brendan O’Brien, Angela Litter, and Laura Murphy. Special Olympics Volunteer Manager, Claire O’Connor, reflected on the emotional and humbling experience of reading all 74 nominations and the challenging task faced by the judging panel in selecting winners.  

Matt English, Special Olympics Ireland CEO, said: “Congratulations to all Volunteer Awards winners and a heartfelt thanks to all Special Olympics Ireland volunteers, who are the lifeblood of our organisation and essential to our mission. Our volunteers work directly with athletes to provide opportunities, organise training and events, spread joy, and ultimately change lives for the better.

I would like to thank the wonderful MC for the Awards, Gráinne McElwain, and to recognise the important involvement of athletes, Board members, and our corporate partners in presenting awards, addressing the ceremony, and sitting on the judging panel.” 

The Volunteer Awards served to underscore the impact and importance of volunteering in the work of Special Olympics Ireland, with the award winners illustrating how transformative and life-changing the experience has been. Special Olympics Ireland extends an invitation to all those interested in helping transform the lives of people with intellectual disabilities through sport to get involved as volunteers.   

For more information on how to become a Special Olympics Ireland volunteer, please visit https://www.specialolympics.ie/volunteer/becoming-a-volunteer  

For a highlight video of the Awards, visit https://youtu.be/li4-gdzMuVw

Details of the award winners are as follows: 


WSG 2003 – 2023 Anniversary Award 

Kate Pollock 


Volunteer Leader 2023 

Frank Donnelly 


Spirit of Special Olympics Award 2023 

Mary Davitt 


Youth Volunteer 2023 

Lauren McKinney 


Club Volunteer 2023 

Nicki Rankin 


Eastern Region Volunteer 2023 

Ciara Dolan 


Eastern Region Youth Volunteer 2023 

Emma O’Flynn 


Ulster Region Volunteer 2023 

Frank Donnelly 


Ulster Region Youth Volunteer 2023 

Breannain Collins 


Munster Region Volunteer 2023 

Pádraig Aherne 


Munster Region Youth Volunteer 2023 

Amy Slattery 


Connaught Region Volunteer 2023 

Patricia Creaven 


Connaught Region Youth Volunteer 2023 

Tara McLaughlin 


Leinster Region Volunteer 2023 

Paddy Slattery 


Leinster Region Youth Volunteer 2023 

Olive O’Keefe 


Distinguished Service award 

Pat Doherty 


Distinguished Service award 

Teresa Ward 


Distinguished Service award 

Dorothy Kavanagh 

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