Longford St. Patrick's Day Parade and Autism Awareness
Longford Chamber of Commerce are supporting the 'Autism Awareness - Turn Longford Blue Campaign' by making Kilashee Street a sensory free zone on 17th March for the duration of the parade. Speaking to the driving force behind this awareness, Ann O'Leary, we got an insight into her direct association with autism and her passion to fundraise for this worthy cause.
"April is Autism Awareness Month and the 2nd of April is World Autism Day. My son with diagnosed at three years of age as being on the Autism Spectrum. He's been attending St. Christopher' School since then, he's non-verbal and is now 13. Thanks to LAMH Sign Language., he has over 300 single words to communicate with me. We noticed there wasn't much awareness for autism in Longford Town, so I wanted to do something about that and also to say thanks to the school for all the fantastic work they do - not with just for my son but for many other children before and after him at St Christopher's Special Needs School.
I started with my decision to organise a small fundraiser in 2015 with a pop-up shop and raffle and made some jewellery myself to sell in the shop. I also had a fun day for kids with face painting, music, sweets and Mickey & Minnie mascots. I also got some local shops to decorate their windows in blue and I raised €2256.00 that year. I'm now coming up on my 6th year of fundraising and have raised just under €23,000.
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Each year I try and do something different. We have local shops who come on board and decorate their shop windows in blue. I started off with just 5 shops but now it over 35 that go blue each year. The Council Office goes blue in support also and last year we had the bridges in Longford and the Mall all lit up in blue in support of autism. We do Blue Nose Day, Tattoo Design and Walk the Walk for Autism which is growing each year with more people joining in the fun.
I don't get any funding or grants for my cause. I cover that myself and I rely on the good nature of my family and friends who volunteer each year. I couldn't do it all without them or indeed our local shops who donate to my raffle year after year or print or design my posters. All proceed are donated locally to St Christopher's Special Needs School.
- This year I have a pop-up shop on 4th April in Longford Town with a bucket collection
- Friday 24th April 2020 is BAFFA Night - Be A Friend For Autism and is in Longford Arms Hotel. Local and UK acts IGT, Sharyn Ward and more will perform on the night. Tickets will go on sale shortly
- Bag Packing to raise necessary funds is on 17th April in Dunnes Stores and a bucket collection over the month of April, so volunteers always welcome to join. This year we have a Sensory Street located on Kilashee Street Longford Town from Boots to Kenny’s Garage at the St. Patrick's Day Parade
Looking forward to taking part in the parade on 17th March at 1pm and I woudl like to thank Longford Chamber of Commerce for their support and all those who will come out to support the event, for our autism group"
- Ann O'Leary