We were privileged last night to host a very special evening celebrating the contribution to sport for people with disability of Pat Flanagan, the founder of Cara.
On the eve of the organisations National inclusion seminar which takes place today, a host of those whose work and lives have been affected by Flanagan’s infectious enthusiasm came to cheer him into the next stage of his career having stepped down as chair of the organisation he founded 12 years ago.
Tributes were paid from Una May of Sport Ireland, Miriam Malone of Paralympics Ireland, Nicky Hamill of the Irish Wheelchair Association, Joe Geraghty of NCBI Vision Sport, Karen Coventry of Special Olympics Ireland.
Vicki Casserley paid moving testament, as Mother of the inspiring James, to the ability of children with a disability to overcome the obstacles that lie in their way and define themselves by what they can do not what they can’t.
Patrick Monahan spoke of his being inspired by London 2012 to take up racing and how he completed this year’s Dublin Marathon at the head of the field in a time of less than an hour and 40 minutes.
Shane McArdle and Brian O’Donnell told us how the work of the Sports Inclusion Disability Officers that Pat Flanagan had created with Sport Ireland was operating on the ground to bring opportunity to so many people.
Ger Deegan and Frances Hannon gave us memories from a personal perspective and Niall O’Flynn spoke warmly on behalf of the board of Cara.
Niamh Daffy and Brenda O’Donnell have been working closest to pat over recent years and their affection for the man was palpable.
We rounded the night out with Pat’s son Pat Jr, a Powerchair footballer of some talent coming up on stage to talk of the man as a Dad.
It was a heartwarming evening of tribute, fully deserved for one of the good guys.