CHAMPIONS come in all shapes and sizes.
And that was certainly the case in Rathkeale last week when local residents gathered to honour 52 people who have made the community a better place to live.
Rathkeale became the first town in Ireland to adopt the American Challenge Coin concept to thank its citizens .
And they selected a diverse set of champions that included the Tidy Town’s crew, the council street sweeper, a teacher, a county council administrator, Gardaí, a journalist, a Special Olympian, a prolific marathon runner, community and county councillors, members of the Traveller community, people who run popular clubs/societies, local employers and Dáil Deputies.
“The awards say ‘thank you’ to those who generously donated their time, skills and resources without any expectation of payment”, said David Lamont, the organiser of the programme.
“These often-overlooked people are just three per cent of the adult population and are the core of Rathkeale. Some have contributed for decades. I expect they will keep up the good work and I hope the recognition will encourage others to lend a helping hand.”
Mr Lamont moved to Rathkeale from California and he brought the Challenge Coin concept with him after earning several for his services in search and rescue operations.
The Rathkeale Champions received an exclusive limited-edition commemorative Challenge Coin and a gift during a special ceremony at the Rathkeale House Hotel.
The awarding of Challenge Coins is an American tradition that dates back to the Great War. Initially, their uniqueness identified the holder as an ally. Soldiers were encouraged to carry them. In a bar, a coin holder would challenge others to display theirs. Those without the coins bought the drinks.
Coins are earned through recognised service to the community and the programme is supported by the Rathkeale Community Council.
Over €3,000 in gifts and prizes were generously donated to the Rathkeale awards programme by 21 local sponsors that included ABP, AIB, Ballintemple Inn, Brenda O’Grady of Bank of Ireland, Bloomer’s Cafe, Brian Geary Toyota, Celtfab, Deel Bakery, D&M Garden Centre, Eurospar, Giltenane’s Pharmacy, Kay’s Unisex Hair Salon, Layna’s Beauty Rooms, O’Gairbhi Newsagent, Rathkeale and District Credit Union, Rath Caola Le Cheile/West Limerick Resources, Scanlon Auctioneers, Sean Hennessy Electrical Superstores, Tadhg O’Connor Electrical, The Washboard and White’s Food Store and Texaco station.