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RehabCare/Dundalk FC Supporters’ Club Project Wins Prestigious Award

04/06/2015 RehabCare/Dundalk FC Supporters’ Club Project Wins Prestigious Award

Football is about community. It’s about people from different backgrounds coming together to support a team. This community spirit was honoured at the European Platform for Rehabilitation (EPR) conference in Valencia, Spain last weekend when the RehabCare/Dundalk FC Supporters’ Club project was honoured with a prestigious Innovation Award. The award is given annually to one organisation from the EPR’s 27 members across 16 European countries.

The project began in 2008 when RehabCare, which provides services for people with disabilities in Dundalk, approached Dundalk Football Club as some of the men in RehabCare with an interest in football, wanted to join the Supporters Club. From day one, they were made feel very welcome by the supporters. They became well known in the football grounds around the country as they travelled to all the away games supporting Dundalk FC. The initiative between RehabCare and Dundalk FC Supporters Club has been an outstanding success and has made a big difference to the lives of those involved.

For those involved in the Supporters Club, it’s not just about being fans of football, it’s also about the friendships they make, being part of a club, the social life, and being part of the community. Darren Belton says, “I love going to the away games. It’s brought me to places I’ve never been like Limerick, Longford, Athlone, Derry and Cork. There is always good craic on the bus.  You can chat to people. I’ve made new friends through the club. One of my goals was to see Manchester United play. Because of being more confident now after a few years in the Supporters’ Club, I’m going to go Old Trafford in a few weeks. It’ll be my first time out of the country.”

Stephen Caraher, Programme Supervisor, RehabCare explains why the initiative has been such a success. “From the very start, both Dundalk FC and the Dundalk FC Supporters’ Club were really enthusiastic. Having a disability doesn’t matter, you only need one thing to be a member of the Supporters Club – be a massive Dundalk FC fan! Everyone was really welcomed in. Because of their involvement in the Supporters’ Club, they are more confident, they feel like they belong in the club and they are really part of their community now.”

On a lighter note, Stephen added, “Now we have won a trophy in Europe, we have set the standard for Dundalk FC to lift a trophy in Europe. We can only dream, but sometimes dreams come true. C’mon the Town!”

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