Each quarter, our charity, The Hospital Saturday Fund holds a Grant Making Committee (GMC) meeting. The purpose of these meetings is for the Committee Members to consider the many charity grant applications, and decide upon recipients together. The importance is that it ensures a broad variety of charities supporting different causes, sizes and geographic locations are selected for grants.
Typically, a different HSF health plan staff member usually attends each meeting, which provides a fantastic opportunity to see how the profits from our trading arm are distributed back into the community via our grant-making.
Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, we took a few months’ hiatus from our normal grant-making. Instead of our typical approach, we decided that we needed to provide assistance
to those that were most at risk during the crisis. As a result, from April till June, The Hospital Saturday Fund ended up providing grants to 102 charities and hospices, many of whom required support towards funding PPE for staff and volunteers.
On August 25th, we held our first GMC meeting since January. The award of a large grant went to six organisations in total, four of which were from Ireland, and two from the UK.
One of the Ireland-based charities that received a grant from us included Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland (AADI), who received a €10,000 grant towards the expansion of their dog breeding programme. Established in 2010, the small, yet dedicated team that is supported by over 50 volunteers, is on a mission towards changing the world for children with autism. Their method towards achieving this is through training and placing highly skilled autism assistance and companion dogs.
There are several advantages to those with autism having one of the dogs by their side. Not only can their company ease feelings of anxiety and act as a lifeline towards the sometimes debilitating symptoms of autism, but they also make a welcome friend to those who struggle to integrate with their peers and build relationships. Just as importantly, having an assistance dog also promotes and encourages regular exercise.
With the need to expand their breeding programme, Carla Anikah, AADI’s Head of Fundraising and Communications, said that the grant from the Hospital Saturday Fund will help towards meeting the increasing demand for their assistance dogs. Specifically, the €10,000 will go towards the purchase of 2 breeding females, which they hope will result in 2
litters of puppies being born in 2021. This would allow for 12-15 new puppies to be placed into AADI’s training programme (which takes 18 months), and will result in the assistance of 40 families by 2022.
Carla noted the vast difference that the assistance dogs have had upon the lives of those with autism and their families. Particularly, it brings her a lot of joy to see the impact that the
dogs can have upon someone’s confidence and feeling of security when it comes to venturing out of their homes, where this is often “the first big change”.
Another Irish charity that we awarded a grant to in August included the Marie Keating Foundation. They were provided with a grant for €13,500 towards getting a replacement mobile unit for community cancer awareness.
The foundation was established back in 1998, in memory of the Keating family’s beloved mother, Marie, who passed away from a battle with breast cancer, aged 51. The purpose of the charity is to provide the people of Ireland with vital information, advice and support on the signs and symptoms of cancer, as well as help towards preventing cancer early on. As a result of their progress within these areas, the Marie Keating Foundation is now known as one of the leading voices in Ireland for cancer prevention, awareness and support.
Another key to the organisation’s success is how easily information and support can be accessed by the public via their mobile information units. These units are staffed by a team of eight specialist oncology nurses that visit venues such as workplaces, organisations, festivals, libraries and schools, to deliver cancer information into the hearts of communities. With areas that are remote and marginalised showing to have higher rates of cancer, the traveller community, Men’s Sheds organisations, refugee organisations and specialist schools have all become areas of focus for the charity.
The mobile information units are stocked with take-home information leaflets and packs on various types of cancers. The nurses on-board can also give private one-on-one advice and treatment, as well as undertaking basic health checks, overall meeting 29,000 people per year. The service provided is free of charge, and leads to 450 cases each year being treated and investigated further.
Despite the units not being able to operate during April and May due to the Coronavirus, the Marie Keating team are now back on the road again, in line with the current restrictions. Unfortunately, one of the vehicles is unroadworthy at present, limiting the organisation’s ability to deliver their Community Outreach Service. The €13,500 grant from the Hospital Saturday Fund will therefore make a good contribution towards the €72,227 required to purchase a new unit.
To learn more about Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland, visit: https://www.autismassistancedogsireland.ie/
To learn more about the Marie Keating Foundation, visit: https://www.mariekeating.ie/