Tour de Munster will help restore Down Syndrome services

The Hayes family, Ruth, Emily, James and baby Seán with parents Pat & Marie

SIX-year-old Ruth Hayes is looking forward to meeting up with her friends at Down Syndrome Limerick (DSL) in September.

A pupil at Ballyagran National School, Ruth has availed of speech and language therapy as well as a school preparation course and regular social events to help her transition to mainstream education.

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“This  included sign language, so we all had to learn some of that. Not only did DSL help us and Ruth develop that means of communication but the therapist also when into the school to tell them about Ruth before she started and to help them with signing,” Ruth’s mum, Marie Hayes told the Limerick Post.

Now her teachers and fellow  pupils are all incorporating signing in the classroom “which helps Ruth integrate as it’s makes it not just about one child.”

Marie said they have really missed the personal contact which Down’s Syndrome Limerick provides since it shut down last March.

“Ruth loves to meet with her friends. DSL are now making preparations so they can safely reopen in September. It’s such an important service for so many families,” said Marie.

But reopening is an expensive business if they are to operate safely with soft furniture covers having to be replaced with cleanable surfaces and PPE for staff and service users.

Which is where this year’s Tour de Munster fundraising cycle comes in.

“Down’s Syndrome children are very vulnerable as many have complex health issues, so they have to extremely careful about Covid 19,” Marie explained.

Taking place from August 6 to 10, the tour will see participants travel 600km through the towns and villages of Munster as they support Down Syndrome Ireland’s Munster branches and individual beneficiaries who urgently require funds.

They will be arriving to a royal welcome at King John’s Castle on August 6.

Since 2001, the charity cycle has raised over €3.1 million for a wide range of children’s charities including €2.6 million for the Munster branches of Down Syndrome Ireland.

Cycling legend Seán Kelly, who will be participating in the tour for the 14th time, said that during that time he had met with many wonderful individuals with Down Syndrome.

“No matter what challenges face them, their strength and positivity is remarkable. Having been involved in the tour and meeting so many families throughout the years, it really opened my eyes to the support that is crucially needed.”

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