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Basketball has been one of the love’s of my life since I was five or six. It helps that I have grown since then to a respectable 6 foot 5 or so. When you are younger though it can be hard to see past the lines on the court or the scoreboard and know the impact that it can have on a wider community.

Fortunately for me, basketball introduced me to my local social and recreational club for those with intellectual disabilities, Bray Lakers, who by all accounts do absolutely fantastic work in the community. Giving up your Saturday mornings every week isn’t the most appealing thing in the world. However, coaching kids from 7 years old right up to fully grown men has given me a fresh perspective on life.

The highlight undoubtedly came this past summer, when Limerick hosted the Special Olympic Ireland National Games. I volunteered to spend the weekend with athletes from Bray Lakers, coaching, chaperoning and generally helping out as thousands from all over the country descended on UL and surrounding areas for the games. What I saw and experienced was nothing short of special. Thousands of volunteers were needed to make these games possible and the call was answered. Not only was it answered but the energy and spirit played more than a token part in making the experience what it was.

I suppose it all comes back to the athletes themselves, men, women and children who, unfortunately, live their daily lives with  an intellectual disability. For some, or perhaps many, the National Games would be the highlight of their summer. Their excitement and genuine, naked enjoyment of the weekend was something to behold and it definitely rubbed off on the rest of us.

For the group of basketball players I accompanied the highlights were spending the evenings together in their houses enjoying being among friends, or catching up with others they know from different clubs. The games were played in the best possible spirit of sportsmanship and the amount of thanks I still receive from them today for a weekend in June is quite jarring.

Given today’s ever quickening pace of life and what you could argue is a topsy turvy list of priorities throughout wider society, it was refreshing to see such a massive event which was so purely good hearted in nature come together. It certainly opened my eyes and it really does make you remember what is important in life.

And for that it should be me thanking them, not the other way around. Since the summer, I now have the utmost respect for those who choose to volunteer. They can never be thanked enough for making experiences like that possible. Then again, they probably don’t do it for the thanks.

A crude definition of the word volunteer might say ‘a person who undertakes an activity without reward’. Then again it might say ‘the most rewarding activity of your life’.

I’m already looking forward to the National Games when it rolls into town next. In the meantime I’m getting stuck into the Sponsor for a Day Campaign. In case you haven’t heard about it, our company has the opportunity of getting its logo on the Leisnter Rugby jersey for a major European game. Check it out here.



Related: Crowdfunding – The Growing Wave Of Help From Others

More: Kickstarter Crowdfunding Ireland Launches

Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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