This week saw two inspirational young people from Donegal receive their prestigious Gaisce Gold Award from President Michael D. Higgins at a special awards ceremony in Dublin Castle. Robin Mc Clean and Aoibhinn Moyne were among 55 young people from across Ireland who received their Gold Award on the day. Between them all they dedicated more than 12,000 hours to receiving their awards. Since its inception in 1985 an estimated 150,000 young Irish people have completed a Gaisce Award, including former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh and Irish rugby international and Connaught player Robbie Henshaw.

Gaisce – The President’s Award is a direct challenge from President Michael D. Higgins to young people aged 15-25 to dream big and realise their potential, push their boundaries and develop skills which will stand to them throughout their lives.

This year’s Gold Awardees have successfully completed five challenge areas for 52 weeks or more – volunteering with a charity or community group, developing an existing skill or learned something new, became more active through sport or exercise, took part in a four-day adventure journey discovering the great outdoors as part of a team, and broadened their horizons on a five day residential stay away from home. All Awardees previously received the Gaisce Bronze and Silver awards.

Aoibhinn Moyne (pictured above) volunteered with her local scout group for her community involvement and became a regional scout leader. Her involvement with scouts also continued with her Adventure Journey which she completed with Errigal County Ventures trekking from Errigal Mountain to Raphoe and getting the chance to practice her map and compass skills as well as hiking endurance. For her Residential Project Aoibhinn chose to volunteer on board the Dutch Ship Gulden Leeuw for the 2015 Tallships Race from Belfast to Alesund, Norway.

To earn his Gold Award Robin Mc Clean learned to play the saxophone, took up badminton and completed a four day cycle around Donegal. For his Community Involvement, he was an assistant and occasional teacher in Conwal Sunday School, and this included helping out at church events and for his Residential Project, he participated in the Rotary Youth Leadership Development Programmes and Parliament trip to Strasbourg in February 2016. Robin found that writing an account of the challenges made him realise how much he had achieved. He’s delighted to “have furthered my communication, organisational and planning skills”.

Special Guest, President Michael D. Higgins addressed the audience during the ceremony “It gives me great pleasure to be here with you today to recognise the dedication, perseverance and generosity of our Gaisce Gold recipients, and to present 55 talented young people with their award. Today marks the conclusion of a journey – a journey in which you tested yourselves, through your thoughts and actions, first discovering and then surpassing your own limits. It was a journey in which you demonstrated not only a personal determination, but also a commitment to the service of your communities and of your fellow citizens. Today is a day on which you, your families and friends, your teachers and mentors, and all those who helped you on your path to the Gold award, can justly feel very proud of your accomplishment.”

John Concannon, Chairman of Gaisce – The President’s Award said “I would like to congratulate all of those receiving their Gold Awards here today. They should be proud of all they have learned and achieved. I think it’s fair to say that the future of our country and communities will be in safe hands if these young people are leading it.”

Yvonne McKenna, Chief Executive of Gaisce – The President’s Award said: “Gaisce truly is a national treasure: helping thousands of young people each year to dream big and fulfil their potential. I congratulate this year’s Gold Awardees who have shown determination and commitment to achieving their awards and it is only right they are celebrated here today in beautiful Dublin Castle, with all the pomp and ceremony that goes with it. With many young people possibly feeling a little lost in their lives today, Gaisce – The President’s Award is a vital framework which gives young people a voice, confidence and self-belief through their achievements and goals. Today’s Gold Awardees aren’t only incredible ambassadors for Gaisce, but also their families and our country.

We applaud, too, the commitment and dedication of the President’s Award Leaders (PALs) who mentored the young people through their Gaisce journey and to this special day. For many of the more than 30 organisations represented today, this is their first Gaisce Gold. A huge thank you to all the organisations and the PALs for supporting young people to dream big and fulfil their potential through Gaisce – The President’s Award.”

2FM DJ and RTE presenter, Eoghan McDermott, acted as MC for the ceremony. Four piece Dublin indie band The Temps and singer songwriter Sonny Casey performed during the ceremony.

25,000 young people registered to take part in 2017 and Gaisce’s aim is that 35,000 young people will register each year by 2020, the 35th anniversary of Gaisce, so that every young person has the opportunity to participate in the programme and realise their dreams and ambitions.

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