Family pay touching tribute to “Superman” founder of Share A Dream Foundation, Shay Kinsella

Share A Dream Founder Shay Kinsella at the Dreamland play centre. Photo: Liam Burke

The family of Shay Kinsella, who founded the Share A Dream Foundation 31 years ago, have paid a touching tribute to the “Superman”, who made wishes come true for thousands of vulnerable and terminally-ill children, after he passed away this Sunday from cancer at the age of 79.

Mr Kinsella, originally from Wexford, died at Milford Hospice, in his adopted home of Limerick, where he based the internationally renowned charity.

He also opened Dreamland, in Limerick, the world’s first-ever fantasyland where both non-able-bodied children and their able-bodied siblings and friends could play side by side.

In a dreadful twist, his assistant at Share A Dream, Ciara Brolly, also passed away from cancer at Milford Hospice, last May.

Mr Kinsella’s son John Kinsella said he would help carry the torch, to make sure the charity continued its work for vulnerable and terminally-ill children.

Speaking this evening, John Kinsella said his father had left an “incredible legacy” others could only dream of.

“After Ciara’s passing, it’s been a double whammy for everyone. (Shay) was a larger than life character, but to all his children he was our Dad, and a husband to my mam. As everyone who knew him would appreciate Dad was a big child at heart, but he had great drive, and that’s why its so hard to believe he is gone,” Mr Kinsella said.

“He seemed like he was Superman, and we all used to say he’d see us all down. It’s just a tragedy for us, and (his death) has caught us all by surprise.”

Cllr Jerry O’Dea is shown the plans by Shay Kinsella of Share A Dream on site at Park Point on the Dublin Road.
Picture: Keith Wiseman

“Everyone would have known him and Share a Dream and what type of guy he was, full of enthusiasm. He has left a great legacy. Even though he had cancer, (his passing) wasn’t something we thought was going to happen as quick as it has. People have lived and left nothing like anything as near what he has left.”

“His dream was that Share A Dream continues, and we’ll definitely have to do that, continue on where he has left off.”

John Kinsella said his father had remarkable skill in convincing celebrities and well known personalities over the years to support the charity, which organised dream trips for children and their families to destinations all over the world.

“I don’t know what it was, you can’t buy that sort of enthusiasm, he always had everyone eating out of his hands. We were laughing there this evening that it’s probably a good time for him to go, because every person he met he’d be hugging them or grabbing their arm, the (social distancing coronavirus) rules just didn’t apply to him.”

“I think that’s why kids loved him so much. When you have kids yourself you’re tip-toeing around them, and he’d be throwing them from one end of the place to another; he was a big kid, and the kids loved that.”

Ciara Brolly’s sister Una Brolly, who also worked alongside Shay at Share A Dream fought back tears as she paid her own personal tribute to the Wexford native who had started out in business with Aer Lingus.

“There’s so much you could say about Shay, he helped tens of thousands, and he put smiles on the faces of tens of thousands of small kids. He was a great friend to Ciara, and he is someone who will be sorely missed by all who knew him and whose lives he touched,” said Ms Brolly.

“He was some man for one man.”

Mr Kinsella, who is survived by his beloved wife Amy, and children John, Anthony, Damien and Sheena, and grandchildren Megan, Anna, Amy, Amelia and Elise, and extended family, will privately repose at his home in Westbury, Limerick, on Tuesday July 28th for family and friends only.

His Requiem Mass, which will be streamed live online, will take place in St Nicholas Church, Westbury on Wednesday, July 29th, at 12 noon, followed by burial in Castlemungret Cemetery.

His family requested no flowers with donations if desired to Milford Care Centre or the Share a Dream Foundation.

“In compliance with current guidelines, Shay’s funeral will be restricted to family members and close friends only,” a funeral notice published on stated.