The Vhi GAA Cúl Camps provide boys and girls between
the ages of 6 and 13 with an action-packed and fun-filled week of activity
during the summer holidays which revolves around maximising enjoyment and
sustaining participant involvement in Gaelic Games. During this summer of 2011, Roscommon GAA in
association with the Roscommon Sports Partnership ran an inclusive Vhi GAA Cúl
Camp specifically organised for children with disabilities. Over a period of
four days 15 children participated in GAA activities and motor skills
development games. GAA coaches voluntarily gave up their time to assist with
the camp while numerous other volunteers helped out. With the large number of
volunteers one on one coaching could be provided which was of huge benefit to
the children. Brothers and sisters also attended the camp.
The original idea for this Cúl camp
came about when a parent approached Annette Mc Geeney, Sports Inclusion
Disability Officer (SIDO) Roscommon Sports Partnership, expressing her wishes
for a Cúl Camp suitable for her two autistic children, as she felt the other
camps just did not cater for their needs. Annette liaised with Willie Hegarty, Roscommon’s
GAA Games Development Officer on devising a suitable inclusive Cúl Camp so that
children with a disability could also enjoy the games and activities which were
available to other children in Cúl Camps around the country
Prior to the camp commencing it was
decided that all coaches involved in the camp would be invited to attend a
Coaching People with Disabilities Workshop, which was run by Coaching Ireland.
Each of the coaches took away some valuable information from this course, which
greatly benefited them in assisting children with a disability and ensured that
they were prepared to meet the needs of all those who would be participating at
this special Cúl camp. All of the coaches involved attend primary schools on a
regular basis, taking children for GAA training and this particular course on
Coaching People with Disabilities was of tremendous benefit in helping them
gain more confidence in adapting games for children with disabilities, to ensure
that everyone is included.
On the 2nd August 2011,
the scene was set for the first ever
camp of this kind to be run in the country. According to Willie Hegarty,
‘for the following four days children, along with their brothers and sisters,
enjoyed GAA skills, tunnel games, parachute games and karaoke singing to name
just a few activities, while coaches gained a real sense of fulfilment knowing
that they were the ones putting the smiles on all the children’s faces and
making a valuable impact on their lives’.
Tony Watene, the GAA’s National
Inclusion Officer said "I'd like to compliment Willie Hegarty, Roscommon
Games Development and Roscommon County Board for their ongoing achievements in
inclusion. Last year they trialled a
very successful inclusion project in Monksland, which saw many ethnic
minorities participate in our games.
This latest, highly positive inclusion accomplishment is the first of
its kind, not only for Roscommon GAA, but for the Association, overall.
Congratulations to all those who made it possible.’
According to Jimmy O ‘Dwyre, National
Cúl Camps Coordinator, "this camp in Roscommon shows the result of many
people working together on a project which bought such happiness to so many
children and families. I am very aware of Willie Hegarty's excellent coaching
and organising work for Gaelic Games in the county and this initiative is a
further example of his vision. Well done all round."
It is indeed important to
acknowledge the tremendous work undertaken by Willie Hegarty, GAA Games
Development Officer, Roscommon Sports Inclusion Disability Officer, Annette Mc
Geeney and Fiona Southwood, for their determination in implementing a initiative
of this kind. This is a significant step forward for a major National Governing
Body in designing GAA programmes for children with disabilities. While this
programme started out as a pilot programme but from the success of the Cúl camp
this summer, the GAA in Roscommon are willing to take it on board as one of
their programmes in the coming years. The future looks bright in the area of inclusion
in Roscommon and this is hopefully the first of many such programmes, which the
GAA are striving to extend throughout the rest of the country.
Yes, it is important to state that
this particular Vhi GAA Cúl Camp initiative, which took place in Roscommon can
be regarded as being the ‘GAA’s Coolest
Cúl Camp’ in 2011.