Scout leader Ann is this month's local hero. "Never in a million years did I think I'd get this involved, but it's all or nothing in scouting for the thing to work well," Ann O'Halloran smiled.
Ann's role as a leader in the 1st Bagenalstown Baden Powell Scouts Troop isn't just about tying knots and camping under the stars. Her dedication to both the beaver section (children aged 6-8 years) and to the senior scouts (15-18 years) in Bagenalstown is unwavering and committed.
"You wouldn't believe the amount she does with the children", her daughter Fiona, who nominated Ann for the Local Heroes Award, explained. Every Friday night, Ann can be found in McGrath Hall, Bagenalstown with the scouts, where she's deeply involved in helping the young people to achieve such prestigious recognition as the Gaisce award - the only civilian accolade presented by the president of Ireland - and the St. George's award, the highest honour that can be achieved in scouting. Such is her dedication to helping the young people achieve merits for the awards that this summer Ann headed off to the Camino de Santiago with 13 others, including leaders.
Under the blistering hot August sun, they carried their heavy bags on their backs and walked 99 kilometres over 4 days! "The bags were the killer; there were a lot of hills on the Camino!" Ann laughed!
Helping the younger members in the beavers with their arts and nature projects, going away on scouting weekends and helping to develop lifelong skills are all part of what Ann does. !I can see the young people develop so much. They all want to achieve something and they get so much out of it," Ann said. She continued that scouting is a great organisation for the transition from childhood to teenage years through to adulthood.
Ann had no involvement herself in scouting which she was growing up. She got involved in Scouting Ireland ten years ago when one of her children wanted to join. And then, in 2009, she was instrumental in setting up the 1st Bagenalstown Baden Powell Troop. The Bagenalstown brigade is one of only 2 Baden Powell troops in Ireland, the other one being in Edenderry, Co. Offaly.
During the past 10 years, the entire O'Halloran family has become involved. Her three children, Fiona (21), 18 year old Eoin and Roan (15) have come up through the ranks, while her husband Martin, the local sergeant, has also earned his stripes as a leader. Ann admits that its not always easy to give up so much time and commitment to one organisation, but it is well worth it when she sees how the youngsters progress in life. "The whole family needs to be committed because its so demanding, but we do enjoy it, so that's half the battle," Ann said. "And, in fairness, I do enjoy it because its so important to the children. You give them respect and you'll get that respect back. Everyone is treated equally and fairly and that's everything!"
Carlow’s Local Heroes is a new community-based awards initiative that aims to recognise and celebrate local people who, in the eyes of their friends, neighbours and colleagues, can truly be described as making a positive difference to people’s lives