Dungiven man Liam McElhinney said after his “fabulous” daughter Cara Rose was born, dealing with the diagnosis that she had Down’s Syndrome was tough.
The first two years were hard, said Liam, candidly.
However, seven years on and Cara Rose is as normal as any other child, said Liam.
“At the very beginning it was tough,” said Liam, speaking at Owenbeg on Saturday where Derry GAA marked World Down Syndrome Day with a day of sporting events.
“The first couple of years were really tough but, now, Cara Rose is fabulous. She has blended in very well and she is
very sporty. She is a normal child.”
Cara Rose is in mainstream education, in Primary 4 at St. Canice Primary School in the town, and her dad said she has a big year ahead of her.
“Cara Rose is a fabulous child. We kept her back a year but she is in P4. She is making her First Holy Communion this year, and she is just absolutely brilliant. She is as normal as any other child. She’s fabulous. We just see her as completely normal.”
Liam said his family are extremely grateful for the help of Foyle Down Syndrome Trust and the many events they organise to meet the needs of children with Down’s Syndrome.
“They do a lot for the kids. Cara Rose was swimming on Friday and she has one-on-one instruction and she is a fabulous swimmer, as well as being a great sportswoman.”
Liam said the event at Owenbeg, at which Derry GAA manager, Brian McIver, and several senior Derry footballers attended, is a wonderful way to raise awareness.
“This event by Derry GAA has been excellent, and the hospitality from Derry GAA towards everyone here has been fantastic. Hats off to Derry GAA for raising awareness about Down’s Syndrome. Other parents have been saying the same, and we’ve been blessed with a really good day. It’s safe and we’ve enjoyed great facilities, and it has been a fantastic, fun day. It’s important because as well as raising education and academic abilities, you have to look at a child’s health and have them healthy young children as well as being capable in school. We have to meet Cara Rose’s sporting needs as well for her own health and wellbeing as the years go by. We definitely need more of these days across the county, across the province and across Ulster.”
Audrey McElhinney from Craigbane agrees. She said her son, 16-year-old Jordan, loves sport and interacting with other teens.
“Days like this at Owenbeg are fantastic, but they’re few and far between in sport in general. It would be great if there were more of them because Jordan loves sport and he loves football. I have a sister with Down Syndrome and I feel there is very little to meet their needs in the area. Rather than going to a day centre, days like this are excellent because it means people are outdoors and can be healthy. This has been a great opportunity for everyone.”
Ashleen McCaul, Derry GAA Games Development Administrator, said the idea for the day came after a phone call from Magherafelt U-10 coach, Adrian Moran.
“Adrian planted the seed, and so we went on ahead and pulled the coaches together. We do a lot for under age, but we don’t do anything for children with disabilities and so, here we are, and we’ve had a good turnout,” said Ashleen, who said there was no reason why similar events can’t be organised.
“We wanted to raise awareness about Down’s Syndrome and and if we did that today, then it has been a success,” said Ashleen.