Inspirational Derry teen uses birthday money for good

St Joseph’s pupil Cian McConnell has touched the hearts of his school and the wider community by using his birthday money to buy supplies for Foyle Foodbank.

Cian received around £300 for his 15th birthday and decided, instead of buying things for himself, to buy items for Foyle Foodbank's Christmas Appeal. He bought a range of dry foods, including cereals, packet soup, biscuits and coffee, as well as deodorant, Christmas crackers and cleaning products. He spent over £75 in total, after his mum insisted that he keep some money for himself.

Cian said: “I’ve always suffered from poor mental health and it’s been really bad recently. I’ve been through things with my own thoughts so I wanted to prove to myself that I was a good person and I wanted to help others.

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“My family has been through a lot this year. My dad spent a lot of money on a house to find out it has mica so I understand what it’s like for other people. I want to be kind, help others and support people who are going through financial problems or can’t afford food.

St Joseph's pupil Cian McConnell who spent his birthday money on items for Foyle Foodbank.

"My parents were really proud of me for doing it. They were just over the moon.”

Cian’s proud form teacher, Mrs Fiona Page, said: “When Cian came in with his donation, all the boys in his class were so touched. They were all very supportive of him and I think they’re all going to try and do something similar in the future.”

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Principal of St Joseph’s Ciara Deane said: “I was so proud when Mrs Page told me what Cian has done but I wasn’t shocked. There’s a lot of messages out there that children are only invested in themselves but, if you provide the platform, they will come-to. People think that boys of Cian’s age are using money just for themselves but he has a wider scope and can see others, which is something that will probably never leave him. This was a natural act of kindness and gratitude on Cian’s part because he saw that help is a two-way street; he gives help and he gets help. That’s something that we’re very much about in St Joseph’s.”

"There has been resounding feedback from people throughout Derry and it’s giving a subtle nudge towards removing the taboo around foodbanks. We have families who use it and we have always been focused on drawing attention to the foodbank and supporting where we can. As a school, we’re very much invested in charities but to see that individual act from a boy of Cian’s age is wonderful. I think Cian even surprised himself with this act.”

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Year 11 pupil Cian McConnell with Tyler McClelland, Kieran Fisher, Head Boy, Mrs Page and Aaron McCafferty, Deputy Head Boy.

"I’m surprised by the feedback!” Cian said. “I didn’t realise this many people would be interested!”

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"He’s created a tsunami of kindness,” said Ms Deane. “Without even knowing it, Cian has become a kindness influencer. He has influenced his own peers and sent a message out that kindness is good. He never intended to do that but that’s what the greatest thing is; he didn’t do it to get attention, he just wanted to be kind.”

Looking ahead, Cian wants to continue putting others before himself.

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“I genuinely don’t want anything for Christmas,” he said. “I really don’t. My family’s been through so much with mica and everything else and I’ve been struggling with my mental health too. I’ve gone to CAHMS and tried other things but all the support from this has really been helping me. Since making the donation, I’ve actually gotten through a day without worrying about anything. I just can’t wait now to donate more!”