Mayo manager James Horan is lending his support to AIRC. He's pictured here with Tony and Bronagh Davill. Photo: Linda McNulty

ÁIRC launch campaign to build centre for children with disabilities

A GROUP of visionary Mayo parents have set up a campaign to provide a support centre for children with disabilities. It’s early days yet, but driven by their imaginations, hard work and passion, they’re taking the first important steps to create an environment of complete acceptance, belonging and accessibility.

The initial funding target is €100,000 and a call has gone out for the community to get behind the project.

Originally developed by parents to support each other, over the past five years the organisation, ÁIRC, has grown into much more. ÁIRC is the Irish for ark, and like Noah’s Ark, there’s a place for everyone. The next question people mostly ask is what it exactly that they do. Put simply, ÁIRC basically ask parents the question: ‘What do you need?’ As one of the founder members, Angela Locke Reilly, explains: “The answers are as diverse, challenging, inspiring and surprising as one could imagine and range from emotional support to financial aid to information to entertainment and much more.”

ÁIRC is run by a committee of volunteers, all parents of a child with disabilities. It is a sad fact of life that parents of children whose needs differ from typical children have to spend precious energy fighting for their children’s rights.

Said Angela: “We have known for a long time now that if we had the funds we could build a centre where we could provide many services to help parents. We would subsidise therapies, host workshops, information events, conferences, facilitate summer camps, get-togethers. We could provide after school care so parents could work with siblings on their homework. We could then also provide a sibling support group.”

The vision includes an office with space for books on matters relating to disabilities and family issues so parents could research in peace while their child might enjoy the sensory area. Newly diagnosed families could also drop by for support and a chat. There will be a playground, a sensory garden and a vegetable patch.

The project is at the very beginning stages. “It’s just our vision,” Angela said. “It’s all about empowering parents and giving them options back. With our own centre we will hopefully be able to help with that. ÁIRC prides itself in being a community group and we do what we do for the community. If the Mayo community pulls together for us on this then our future looks very bright indeed and I for one will have a lot of my hope back.”