John Connolly visited Leitrim Sports Partnership's first ever Sports Inclusion camp at Lough Rynn and found everyone eager for more
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A lovely picture of camp participants and instructors at the Leitrim Sports Partnership Summer Inclusive Camp at Lough Rynn Picture: Willie Donnellan
Calls to continue and even extend a ground-breaking fun Summer Inclusive Camp to further locations around the county have been made by parents after the Leitrim Sports Partnership held a very successful first edition of the camp at Lough Rynn.
You could not escape the sounds of happy children and adults at the magnificent Lough Rynn facility outside Mohill when it hosted the Leitrim Sports Partnership Summer Inclusive Camp a couple of weeks ago when the Observer visited, a sure sign that the investment in both the camp and facilities have been worth it.
Funded by Leitrim County Council through the Leitrim Sports Partnership with support from Sport Ireland and Healthy Leitrim and help from Childhood Days Drumshanbo, the Sports Inclusion, which took place from July 6 to 8, was a physical activity camp aimed at supporting children with additional needs to become more active and improve their health in a fun and sociable environment!
Camp organiser and LSP Sports Inclusion Officer Michelle Fanning told the Observer that the camp has received some great feedback from children and parents: “It was wonderful to see everyone having so much fun and it was so uplifting to see all the lovely smiling faces. The feedback has been fantastic saying they are really, really enjoying it, the smiles on their faces - everybody is just really happy, we are delighted to have organised it and it was well worth all the work that went into it to see the joy and happiness.”
With children from all over Leitrim attending the camp, Michelle outlines the details of the camp: “This is the first year of the camp so hopefully it will become an annual event and campers have come from all over the county, north and south, some travelling well over an hour to get here. The aim is to include any kids with additional needs to become more involved with sports and activities.
“Activities include kayaking with instruction from Lough Rynn Kayaking club, multi sport and a mix of parachutes, ribbons, dances, bowling, relays, tennis, various target throwing and sensory activities, fun games and activities which are very good for social, mental and physical well being.”
With tutors from Leitrim Sports Partnership and staff from Childhood Days on site, the groups were well catered for at the Lough Rynn facility which Michelle says is a godsend: “The Lough Rynn facility here is great - we have this whole area where we can do our multi sport activities, the nice pond for our kayaking and we have a gazebo set up in case of rain.”
Michelle’s words were echoed by parents of children taking part in the camp - Marina O’Brien Smith, who travelled from Lurganboy, was delighted with the camp and hopes it becomes an annual event and expands to other locations around the county: “It has been very positive especially from a social perspective, they are all friends in school but it is brilliant to be outdoors. To be out on the water is very calming and the physical activity is so important, it is something we are all very mindful of as parents to keep active, to have fun together. I would absolutely love to see an annual thing on both sides of the county.
“It has been really positive and we believe something similar is going to happen in north Leitrim, we’ve travelled over an hour today so that is really positive. It is well worth the travel, especially on the sunny days but it would be great to see it happen in north Leitrim. We have brilliant lake facilities in Leitrim, Glencar and Glenade Lake. There is no reason why it couldn’t happen there too.”
Michelle Harding, another parent, was full of praise for the Leitrim Sports Partnership staff and tutors: “The team here from the Leitrim Sports Partnership have been great, this isn’t our first experience with them, we’ve done a few things with them and at this stage, they know the kids as well and that familiarity is lovely as well. Just even us all getting together after the last year is lovely.”
The social aspect of the camp after a tough year due to Covid restrictions was incredibly important says Michelle: “It is nice for the kids to see each other and for us as adults to see each other again, we’ve been doing it by Zoom but this is different. The advantage is that they are just giving that little bit of extra attention to the children but it is a stepping stone on to doing this with other camps. Isabel is loving the camp, Isabel is 13 and she loves the water anyway, full stop.”
And Michelle was also full of praise for the wonderful facilities at Lough Rynn: “The facilities here are absolutely brilliant, I know a lot of money has been put into the area but it is well worth it, it is just great. When you invest in something like this, it is here forever and I’m sure it is going to be enhanced as time goes on.
“But the benefit that it has for anybody that comes in here, even if it is just going for a walk or using the facility like we are today is just priceless.”
Siobhan Connellan, an SNA in Annaduff National School, was in full agreement with Michelle’s comments: “It is absolutely fantastic and I have to say, the staff, - you couldn’t meet nicer and more helpful. I’m with a young boy and he enjoyed it immensely, it is just brilliant.
“It has been a tough year for everybody and for them to meet up with their friends, meet up and enjoy themselves, it is just great. It would be brilliant if this became an annual thing, more of it is needed.”
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