Irish News CVA: A place for everybody in Ballinderry
UPON the completion of the new Aaron Devlin 4G pitch at Shamrock Park, Ballinderry were left with a small, triangular patch of wasteground behind it.
Unsure of what to do with it, the committee, led by Clare Devlin, came up with the idea of a memorial garden and biodiversity trail with a difference.
Thanks to funding from the Challenge Fund, the 2013 Ulster club champions were able to transform the land into a small garden in which they offered parishioners the chance to plant memorial trees to remember their late loved ones.
Amid beautiful sunshine on April 8, led by the blessing of the ground by PP Fr Donnelly, the community turned out in huge numbers to take up the offer, which The Irish News’ Club, School and Volunteer awards judges decided was worthy of the Club Engagement of the Year award.
“Essentially what we wanted was an area to remember everybody in the parish, not just people in the GAA club, that had passed away,” says Clare Devlin.
“We discussed it at committee level and looked about funding before we set about getting the grounds ready.
“People started ringing, the first week it was slow, the second day is was fast and then there were 22 or 23 people came forward to plant on the day.”
In all, there were 196 trees planted in the garden to remember a total of 260 people, and behind each of them was a story.
“There was a great cross-section of people; from people in their 80s to people who planted trees for babies in cases where they maybe hadn’t publicly acknowledged them before,” says Clare.
“Every tree has a story and a family, and they felt privileged to have that area to plant a tree and share their story. Families that had lost people quite recently were there.
“They remembered teams from years ago and people who had been involved in the club.
“The O’Kane family came from Belfast, four generations of them, and they were delighted to come.”
Her sister Eithne, who was also involved in the project and received the award on the club’s behalf along with chairman Pearse Cullen, added: “There was a lady in the parish that had a son killed in a car crash nearly 30 years ago and he was playing for the seniors at the time, and she hadn’t been back through the gates of the club since, she just couldn’t, she found it too hard.
“On the day, you heard lots of stories like that.”