As Woodie’s launch their annual Woodie’s Heroes campaign, their hope is to have their biggest and best year of fundraising to date so that they can help four heroic Irish charities continue their incredible work. The campaign kicks off on Sunday 17th July, running all the way through to Saturday 13th August, and will support Childline by ISPCC, Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland, Down Syndrome Ireland, and Make-A-Wish Ireland. Each charity has been carefully selected using a colleague vote shared with all 1,600+ Woodie’s colleagues earlier this year.
Over the last seven years, Woodie’s Heroes has already raised €2.5 million for Irish children’s charities. In 2021, Woodie’s Heroes surpassed its target and raised over €536,000 for children’s charities. This summer, Woodie’s hopes to continue to build on their fundraising efforts, thanks to the generosity of their customers and suppliers, and the support and enthusiasm of Team Woodie’s. 100% of all donations going directly to the four charities and will be divided evenly among them.
It is now easier than ever to donate to Woodie’s Heroes:
- Donate at the till in store by adding €1, €2 or €5 to your bill.
- You can donate online at woodies.ie.
- You can also text to donate €4 to one of the Woodie’s Heroes charities. Simply text one of the below keywords to 50300 to donate €4.*
- ISPCC to 50300 to support Childline by ISPCC
- AADI to 50300 to support Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland
- DSI to 50300 to support Down Syndrome Ireland
- MY WISH to 50300 to support Make a Wish Ireland
*Each text cost €4. Our charities will receive a minimum of €3.60. Service Provider is Like Charity. Helpline 01 481 9311.
Two teams of Woodie’s Heroes cyclists will also undertake a 2,000km cycle around the country over six days in August, putting in the hard miles for a wonderful cause. The teams will each cycle 1,000km and visit all 35 Woodie’s stores and collect their fundraising cheques for the charities.
Woodie’s CEO Declan Ronayne said: “It’s hard to believe we are back with Woodie’s Heroes for a seventh year! We understand that the current climate has been hard for the charity sector and that our chosen charities need our help. To date, Woodie’s colleagues have raised over €2.5 million for Irish children’s charities with their drive, passion and enthusiasm – I have no doubt that 2022 will be our best year yet!’
See below for the remarkable stories of the four charities and their ambassadors who will be greatly helped by the Woodie’s Heroes campaign:
Down Syndrome Ireland ambassador Dara
Two-and-a-half-year-old Dara is from Co Mayo and like many children with Down syndrome, he has had trouble with his speech. His mobility, walking and feeding have never been an issue, but his speech has been slow to develop. This is very common for children with Down syndrome and developing speech often needs some extra support. For Dara’s family, this additional help has come from Down Syndrome Ireland.
The family often use ‘Lámh’, sign language, to communicate with Dara using his hands. There are over 500 signs and Dara has his favourites that he uses to let the family know what he is looking for.
Early intervention is critical for children with additional needs, especially those with Down syndrome. With the right support in place, they have more chances of developing their skills and reaching their potential. At the moment, the waiting lists are really long for Speech & Language Therapy – even if a family chooses to go through the private system, it is very hard to get an appointment.
Down Syndrome Ireland will use the funds from Woodie’s Heroes for an Early Years Communication Program for children with Down syndrome. The program will include online parent and baby sessions, and online and physical resources that can be used at home or in their local branches throughout Ireland. DSI will also employ a specialist Speech and Language Therapist to develop and oversee this Early Years Programme. This is a vital role to provide resources, information and support to families of young children with Down syndrome. This project has the potential to benefit more than 700 young children with Down Syndrome and their families throughout Ireland.
Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland ambassadors Rueben and Indi
Rueben from Co Kildare is the third of three boys in a very busy household! His speech was delayed when he was younger, but as he is from a bi-lingual family, they thought that this was the reason for the delay. After a series of assessments, it was confirmed that Rueben had autism.
COVID arrived shortly after Rueben’s diagnosis, which proved really challenging. Walking was the only activity and as Rueben would often bolt, he became a flight risk. With sensory issues of getting wet, their worst fears were realised on one rainy day, when he reacted to getting wet by running out of the estate, across a busy road as a truck came towards him. It missed him by a matter of inches.
This was the moment that Rueben’s mum Sara realised autism was now a major threat to his safety and reached out to AADI to apply for an assistance dog. The waiting list had been closed since 2014 and when it opened, they were fortunate enough to be one of the 30 places allocated, all of which were filled in less than two minutes.
Eventually, Indi was matched with the family and arrived in November 2021. Indi has revolutionised life for Rueben and his family in so many ways: Rueben doesn’t and can’t run away now, his speech and self-esteem have improved, he has much more independence and he can even go to the shops and supermarket with his mum, which was impossible until Indi’s arrival.
The funds raised by Woodie’s Heroes will enable AADI to train more dogs than ever before in 2022, expanding their Puppy Training Programme to add 25 puppies and foster families to the programme. One in 65 children has autism. It takes €22,000 and up to two years to train each autism assistance dog to the standard required. Sadly, demand vastly outstrips supply with at least 10 enquiries a week from desperate parents.
Make-A-Wish ambassador Jason
Jason (11) from Galway was born with Congenital Myopathy, which is a rare disease that causes muscle weaknesses, which effects his lungs and his spine. At just 11 years of age, Jason has already had 20 surgeries on his back. Jason’s schedule consists of constant physiotherapy, OT, and dietician appointments.
Make-A-Wish Ireland has one simple aim – to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions, bringing hope, strength, and happiness. When helping to plan a wish, the Wish granters tell children to think about what makes them smile most just before they go to bed, and if they are still smiling and thinking about it in the morning, then that’s the one for you.
The Wish team started to talk to Jason about what his perfect day would look like and the idea of a day as a zookeeper really stuck – Jason loves animals and the idea of being a zookeeper for the day was the one thing that Jason kept coming back to.
Last summer, Jason got to be a zookeeper for the day at Dublin Zoo. It was 2 days before he was going in for a big surgery and it was great for the family to have something positive to focus on and look forward to during a stressful time. Dublin Zoo made sure that the day was really special for Jason and his family. After the tour, Dublin Zoo gave Jason a zookeeper cap that he wears all the time, a tangible reminder of his wish day.
Michelle told us that the impact of his wish was incredible. ‘Jason had major surgery two days after the Wish experience and you could just tell he was still on a high from his day at the Zoo as he wasn’t a bit nervous going into the hospital like he normally would be. He loved being able to tell all the doctors and nurses about his zookeeper experience”.
Sadly, there are currently 200 children living with life-threatening illnesses on the Make-A-Wish waiting list for their wishes to be granted. The funding raised by Woodie’s Heroes will go a long way to reduce this waiting list and make their long-term Wish become a reality.
Childline by ISPCC
John has been volunteering with Childline since 2019. The listening service that Childline offers was what drew his attention – ‘I’m there to listen to the children, I don’t need to have all the answers for them, you’re a voice at the other end of the phone that gives the time and listens to what they have to say. Childline is unique in the service that it offers children; they provide a safe space for children to talk that is free from judgement, it’s confidential, and it’s free.
The calls John receives at Childline will vary across lots of topics. It could be something small like a lost toy! But they tackle bigger, more serious issues too like mental health, grief, or illness – the range is drastic. ‘Kids are kids and they come out with all sorts, it can be really funny and light, but it can be hard too’. During COVID, volunteers at Childline identified a lot of sadness from children who felt they were missing out on normal life, like school or occasions like birthdays. There was a lot of anxiety around the uncertainty at the time and Childline were a voice to listen to these worries during challenging times.
The volunteers at Childline won’t offer advice or tell a child what they should do, but instead, they empower them to explore it themselves and help them to find their own answers. They might ask the child ‘what do you want to see happen?’ and empower them to envision what they want for the future.
Childline is always there to take a call from the children that need someone to listen, no matter what time or day it is. ‘The reality is that your problems don’t run a 9 – 5 and neither does the urge to chat. We have a steady stream of contacts throughout both the day and night’ says John, ‘when ending a call with a child, I remind them that we are here 24/7 and invite them to call at any time they need us’. The support from Woodie’s Heroes will help Childline to ensure that their listening service remains open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.