It's a family affair for John and Gary at Clonmel Red Cross

Being a member of the branch involves making a major commitment to the activities concerning the full range of duties, be it administrative, training, instruction and attending functions all over South Tipperary.

Being a member of the branch involves making a major commitment to the activities concerning the full range of duties, be it administrative, training, instruction and attending functions all over South Tipperary.

For the Walsh family of Ballingarrane outside Clonmel, volunteering is something of a family affair.

John Walsh and his son Gary are among the dedicated volunteer group that make up the Clonmel branch of the Irish Red Cross.

They use the Civil Defence headquarters on Heywood Road in Clonmel for all of their meetings for committee members and training events and other activities for members.

John, having gained experience in all the different areas of the group, is now unit officer, the leading Red Cross official in the town.

When his son Gary joined the Clonmel branch of the Red Cross six years ago John followed a short while later and they have progressed together all the way up through the various training grades over the years.

"It has been a very enjoyable experience, you learn so much and meet so many people," said John who would recommend the Red Cross to anybody interested in volunteering. In the unit there are people from aged thirteen upwards learning the skills required of members.

John, Gary and all of the volunteers in addition to the running of the unit concerning training, fund raising and administrative matters, are on call to provide a service throughout South Tipperary.

The members are on call for GAA, rugby, soccer, car rallies, polocross, showjumping and to any groups and organisations that require their services.

The unit has a fully equipped ambulance, a mini bus which caters for wheelchairs and has a call on 4x4s that are available in the county.

Training starts with basic First Aid, moving onto intermediate and Occupational First Aid and then onto Emergency First Responder training and Emergency Medical Technican before taking on the paramedic course.

They also receive instruction in ambulance procedure, manual handling and radio operator.

John said that the Red Cross covers the cost of the fees of all the training and it is up to the individual concerned just how far they want to progress in training.

Some of the duties they perform bring in funds to help them operate during the year and they have important fund raisers such as church gate collections.

"The people of Clonmel have always offered tremendous support to us and that is greatly appreciated," he said.

The unit runs First Aid courses for the public which are very popular said John who is qualified as an instructor.

"These courses for the public also generate income for us and it is a very popular course. We get people from all of the sporting clubs in to do it and there is a demand for the courses," he said.

There are about 8/10 people involved at committee level and then approximately twenty five members in the unit.

"It is a great organisation to get involved with. There is a very high standard of training and volunteers get great satisfaction from going out to the various functions and events to put their training to good use in their own communities. For young people it's a good social outlet to meet new people and learn," he said.

"We are always looking for volunteers. We are on all call 24/7 and you never know what major event is going to happen and we are tied in with all the other voluntary organisations with whom we have a great relationship".

John said that the start of the year was a good time to get involved in a new activity and he hoped to see more people join the Clonmel branch of the Red Cross.

"We would welcome new members and there are plenty of opportunities available to people who want to get to know more about the Red Cross and the activities we are involved with on a weekly basis that are of a benefit to the community that we all live in," he said.