St Gabriels 60th Anniversary – The continuing development and expansion of the St Gabriel’s School and Centre over the years has been made possible in a very large way by fundraising efforts and philanthropic donations. Picture: Arthur Ellis.
St Gabriels 60th Anniversary of supporting children with disabilities
By I Love Limerick Correspondent Dylan Frawley
St. Gabriel’s School & Centre is celebrating 60 years of supporting children with disabilities to reach their potential and to live their life in a dignified manner by working in a spirit of partnership with parents, carers, and their extended families to deliver a range of services around the individual needs of the child. St Gabriels 60th Anniversary
In 1961 Arthur Crabtree, the visionary founder of St. Gabriel’s School & Centre and a group of Limerick business people recognised what few if any facilities were available to help and support families of children with disabilities at that particular time in Limerick. Having come together out of concern to try to bring about change, they set up the Limerick Children’s Handicapped Association, a non-residential treatment centre in St. Joseph’s Street, Limerick. This was the early days of what was later to become known as St. Gabriel’s School & Centre.
After Arthur’s death, Wyn Crabtree, Arthur’s daughter, carried on the outstanding work her father had started. Over time and with the support of her voluntary committee, chaired by Dr Billy Cahill, their determination and commitment to have a special needs school and centre for children with multiple disabilities established in Limerick paid off and a new green-field site in Dooradoyle was purchased.
In April 1997, a purpose-built special needs school and outpatient centre was opened by the then Minister, Michael Noonan, T.D. This marked a new era in the treatment of children with disabilities. Sadly, Wyn passed away in March 2009 at the age of 93 however her memory and spirit live on in St. Gabriel’s today. That very same dedication she displayed throughout her life’s work still is still evident amongst staff who now work in a multi-disciplinary team approach to improve the quality of life for children with disabilities in the Midwest region
The continuing development and expansion of the St Gabriel’s School and Centre over the years has been made possible in a very large way by fundraising efforts and philanthropic donations. In 2008, St Gabriel’s established their Regional Orthotics Service and in 2009 they opened a new Hydrotherapy Pool, largely thanks to the philanthropic efforts of JP McManus and the fundraising efforts of the community in Limerick. St Gabriel’s 60th Anniversary
Hugely grateful to Tesco Community Funds at Arthur's Quay SC for their very generous donation of €666. It will support the work we do at St. Gabriel’s for children with disabilities thank you. @TescoIRLnews pic.twitter.com/73eTCEMiAb
— St. Gabriel's Centre (@StGabrielsCentr) March 22, 2021
St. Gabriel’s School is a special needs primary and post-primary day school, one of only five such schools in Ireland. St Gabriel’s school and centre is a primary and post-primary school for children aged 4-18 with multiple physical/sensory disabilities and/or developmental delay and more life-limiting conditions. St. Gabriel’s Treehouse School Age Team provides services for children of school-going age.
Up to 500 children and young adults from birth to 18 years with a range of disabilities living in the Midwest region attend St. Gabriel’s Early Intervention and School Age multidisciplinary clinical teams which was set up in 2005. St. Gabriel’s Treehouse Early Intervention Team at Dooradoyle deliver a range of services to children with disabilities from birth to six years of age. They present a range of conditions which include cerebral palsy, down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, developmental delay, epilepsy, and other neurological conditions.
These teams include Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Psychology, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Therapy. The clinical teams provide assessments and interventions for children attending services in St. Gabriel’s Centre, at the child’s home and pre-school, primary and secondary school settings. St. Gabriel’s work with families to support children to reach their developmental milestones through a combination of individualised programmes, group work and training. Examples of some of the programmes delivered to parents and families are Hannen, Incredible Years, More Than Words, Talkability, Sibling Workshops, Youth Club for teenagers with ASD. These training and advice programmes support parents to assist their child’s development.
In February 2021, it was announced that St Gabriel’s Respite House, which provides round-the-clock respite care for children with disabilities and complex needs, will finally be able to open after a two-year wait, following confirmation that Government funding has been secured. The six-bed St Gabriel’s unit at Mungret in Limerick was built after almost €3m was raised for construction, but they could not open it because they had no funding to staff it. Máire O’Leary, CEO, St. Gabriel’s said, “the provision of an overnight respite service for children with disabilities is a matter of social justice. We have a responsibility to ensure we support a meaningful level of service to exhausted parents and families. These children have very complex needs, require specialist services and around-the-clock care which is provided by their families. Many of the children are non-verbal, use wheelchairs and are Peg fed, and may require oxygen and suction during the day. Some children that will use the service have life-limiting conditions.”
Máire thanked all the families who supported St. Gabriel’s in the development of this service over the past 10 years saying, “Family needs were the inspiration behind this project, and without their relentless advocacy on behalf of their children we may not have had the courage to embark on such an ambitious plan. Some of these children have sadly passed away but I hope that their families will get comfort today in knowing that their drive to support us will have a lasting legacy for all children with complex disabilities and their families in the region.”
St Gabriel’s is a non-denominational organisation and a registered charity and needs constant fundraising support. Please consider donating to this invaluable Limerick organisation or perhaps organising a fundraiser of your own and let’s keep their services going for another 60 years! Congrats to all at St Gabriel’s for all their hard work and dedication to the people of Limerick.
Kate Sheahan, St. Gabriel’s said, “We are very grateful to the many private donors, companies and businesses who continue to give their support to St. Gabriel’s throughout the pandemic. The harsh reality is that our regular fundraisers have all been cancelled but the need for donations, sponsorship and funding support remains as great as ever. To mark our 60th year anniversary this year we will be launching a different fundraising appeal in early summer. We will be asking the public to make a special donation. If you are willing to use your resources to support the appeal, we would be extremely grateful. A gift no matter what the size can be very meaningful and have a life-changing impact to help improve the quality of life for children with disabilities who need it.”
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