By Cian Molloy - 26 November, 2019
The Saffron County can’t claim to have won an all-Ireland men’s football or hurling final, but nevertheless Antrim GAA has come up with a winning scheme in partnership with the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) that could be emulated by other GAA county boards across the country.
For the third year in a row, Antrim County GAA is running its #SaffronAid initiative, which encourages people to put together a shoe box full of Christmas gifts for those who wouldn’t otherwise get any presents on 25 December, the day we celebrate the birth of Our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
This year clubs across the county have been set a “five star target” by Antrim GAA PRO, Sean Kelly. He wants participating clubs to up their game and work to increase the number of their donations in a bid to set “an all time record” for generosity. He is hoping that more than 5,000 gift shoe boxes will be donated between now and Friday 6 December, when work distributing the donated presents will begin.
“We are indebted to the continued support from the GAA clubs and supporters in Co. Antrim in helping brighten the festive season with their shoe box donations,” said SVP Northern Ireland regional manager Pauline Brown. “The gesture of picking up an extra gift for our Christmas Appeal can make a huge difference to the lives of those for whom Christmas can be a distressing instead of joyful time. We are excited to see clubs accept the challenge with the generous number of shoe boxes donated this year.”
Sean Kelly said: “The success of the #SaffronAid shoe box appeal over the last three years has proven how supportive and extremely big-hearted GAA clubs are and we are delighted to continue to do what we can to help those less fortunate than ourselves with SVP. In the last three years we’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of our members and supporters and, in this fourth year, I’m hopeful that we can smash the record and hit a record 5,000 overall donations.”
Those who benefit from the donations are those for whom Christmas is just another day of trying to keep warm, getting enough to eat and struggling to do the most basic things that the more well-off take for granted.
“It is wonderful to see so many Gaels with empathy for those in need,” said Sean Kelly. “Clubs across the county can get involved by encouraging their members to donate a shoe box containing a few items for families in need or alternatively a gift for a child and having their premises available as collection points for SVP.”
The SVP says it is very easy to make a shoe box donation: next time you are out shopping, pick up a few extra items, place them in a shoe box, wrap the box and mark it as suitable for a man or woman.
Items that can be put in shoe boxes include simple things like shower gel, toothbrushes, toothpaste, lip balm, gloves, hats, small towels, bars of chocolate, hand cream, etc. Wrapped shoe boxes can be left at Antrim GAA club houses for collection by the SVP.
For those who wish to donate a present to a child, gifts should be unwrapped. The SVP says that gifts for teenage children are always in short supply.
All shoe boxes and gifts donated will be distributed by the SVP to families in need from every community in Northern Ireland before Christmas Day.