This year South Tipperary Dolphin Swimming Club celebrates the 30th anniversary of their foundation in 1982. In the intervening three decades they have, through a tremendous dedication and commitment, taught many people with disabilities how to swim. But the Dolphin Swimming Club is not just any swimming club, it is so much more than that.
The weekly Friday night sessions at Ferryhouse Sports Complex just outside Clonmel bring together swimmers of all ages, volunteers and helpers, and a tremendous bond of friendship has been built up over many, many years. One has to see to believe the sheer enjoyment and fun the swimmers take from the weekly exercise
Speaking to one parent on Friday night last he told me how his 30 year-old son had been coming to these sessions since he was a seven year-old boy. At the outset as he began to learn to swim “he was quite autistic and quite unmanageable in many ways”. Within a year he was ‘water-free’ (a term which describes an ability to walk across the pool unaided and without fear) and within three years the boy was swimming a length of the pool, which the proud father described as a “tremendous achievement.”
But the progress isn’t just measured in the physical benefit of swimming, Referring to Andrew his father said the “extra benefit for him in his personal life, out of this step by step learning, was incredible.”
Chairperson Berna Dempsey described how all the participants develop and “gain huge confidence” with South Tipperary Dolphin Swimming Club, from fun and water games at the start to individual swimming and competition for those who can physically progress to that level. Either way it doesn’t matter, what is of importance is that everyone who gets in to the water enjoys the sessions and benefits in every way possible from the exercise.
Berna went on to describe how the club hopes this year to raise funds to purchase a hoist. It is becoming increasingly difficult to help people in and out of the water each week and hopefully soon the club can secure the funding necessary to purchase a hoist which will make life that little bit easier on everyone involved. The club depends on its own fundraising to keep operating, receiving no government assistance, and Berna thanks the public for its generosity and also Ferryhouse who have been very kind to them over many years.
A technique known as the Halliwick Concept is used by the instructors to teach those with disabilities how to swim. From a starting point of almost total dependence on the instructor the team of learner/instructor work together to the ultimate point where the swimmer becomes totally independent in water. Once at that stage they can fully enjoy the exercise and sport that swimming is and gain from the benefits of a weightless aerobic workout. And one is never too young or too old to start to embrace the Halliwick Concept. At present the youngest member in Dolphin Swimming Club is a three year-old girl and the oldest is a young man of 82.
Once proficient in the pool the swimmer can then advance to competition if they so choose and over the past 30 years the Dolphin Swimming Club has had great success at a whole range of swimming meets at home and abroad, from Ayr in Scotland to Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
To coincide with the 30th anniversary of its formation in 1982 the club are hoping to achieve a long coveted ambition this year, i.e., to secure the funding to purchase a hoist. Over the years and still to this day, members unable to get in to the swimming pool on their own have to be assisted. It would be wonderful now, in 2012, if the club were in a position to provide an automatic hoist which could help those, unable to do so themselves, get in and out of the water independently. With this ambition in mind the club are embarking on a three-pronged fundraising campaign over the coming months and hope by the end of it, if not sooner, to be able to come up with the E15,000 needed to purchase this now essential piece of equipment.
On next Friday, 4th May, the annual Bernie Macs (Emigrant’s Rest) fundraising walk will take place. It is a 5k walk around the town, starting from outside the pub and proceeding via Convent Bridge, Western Road, Gashouse Bridge and back to base where a good night’s entertainment will be guaranteed. This year Bernie and the organisers of the walk have agreed to donate all proceeds from the event to the Dolphin Swimming Club and are appealing to the public to join in. Cards are available for walkers on Friday night but if you can’t make it in person make sure you contribute to the fundraising. The walk commences on Friday evening at 7 pm.
Later this year on Friday, 22nd June the club have a fundraising dance planned. This will take place at The Coachman in Parnell Street and promises to be a great night. Keep the date in your diary and we’ll remind you all again beforehand.
Finally for those who would like to become a patron of the club in this 30th anniversary milestone year you can contact the long-serving club treasurer Margaret O’Leary (052 7466428) with a subscription of E20. Wouldn’t it be a great gesture to help out such a wonderful organisation and make a real difference to the lives of the members of the club.
For further information regarding any of its activities you can contact Berna Dempsey, chairperson, at 087 2178149.