‘Guiding Light’ leads Sonia to top award

A teenager from Inishowen, who was named as the Young Volunteer of the Year at the Irish Red Cross Awards, has revealed she was “surprised” and “shocked” by the accolade.

Sonia McKinney (14) was nominated for the award and also the youth achievement award by the Muff branch of the Irish Red Cross, of which she is a member.

Not only did the Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana, student come top in the overall youth award, she was also in the top three in the youth achievement category. Sonia’s success came on the back of a CD she recently recorded for Donegal Young Carers, in memory of her uncle Jimmy’s fiancee, Orla O’Reilly.

Orla worked with the Donegal Youth Service and was instrumental in developing and promoting the young carers’ group. She was sadly killed in a road traffic collision last year and, in her memory, Sonia recorded the CD titled ‘Guiding Light.’ It featured four of Orla’s favourite songs: Dancing in the Sky; How Long Will I Love You; Songbird and Guiding Light.

The CD has already raised over 1,000 euro, something Sonia said she was “very proud” about. Sonia was also praised by the Irish Red Cross for encouraging other young people to discuss their feelings and the importance of opening up about what makes you sad. Sonia said this is what Orla always encouraged her to do and she hopes to continue this in her fundraising activities. Sonia joined the Muff branch of the Red Cross when she was just ten-years-old and she encouraged all young people to sign up. She said she was “delighted” to be nominated for the awards and had a “great time” at the ceremony in Dublin’s Farmlea House.

Meanwhile, Orla’s family and her fiance Jimmy McKinney have now set up a trust fund called ‘Orla’s Guiding Light’ to help fund projects close to her heart.