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'It's tough to describe it in words but it means so much' - Team Ireland's fundraising drive

Paralympics Ireland’s new fundraising campaign ‘The Next Level’ has already raised over €60,000.

Irish Paralympic athlete, Greta Streimikyte, pictured following the announcement of Paralympics Ireland’s new fundraising campaign ‘The Next Level’.
Irish Paralympic athlete, Greta Streimikyte, pictured following the announcement of Paralympics Ireland’s new fundraising campaign ‘The Next Level’.

WITH JUST UNDER six months to go until the Paralympic Games — all going to plan, of course — a new fundraising campaign has been launched for Team Ireland.

If you tuned into The Late Late Show on Friday night, you may already be aware of The Next Level, Paralympics Ireland’s new fundraising drive and awareness and recognition campaign which calls on the public to help current and future Irish para-athletes scale new heights.

If not, a deeper insight was offered this morning by two of Team Ireland’s biggest names, Greta Streimikyte and Nicole Turner, as further details of the initiative were outlined. 

A little over a year on from Paralympic Ireland’s Six Months To Go event at the end of February 2020, this media briefing was very different. A Zoom meeting was a far cry from the face-to-face encounters at the Sport Ireland campus in Abbotstown, where, at the time, it was full steam ahead for Tokyo 2020 despite whispers of this “fast-spreading coronavirus” and the risk of postponement. 

We’re all well aware of everything that’s happened since, and this fundraising effort certainly highlights the concerning impact the pandemic has had on sport.

For Paralympics Ireland, additional costs of the Games postponement and Covid-19 in general are estimated to rise to as much as €500,000, threatening the massive progress made in recent years.

Before the pandemic, Paralympic sport worldwide had availed of a greater level of support in terms of finances and resources than at any other stage in the past. These rising standards, of course, meant that for Irish athletes, competing against the best was becoming increasingly difficult. The idea behind The Next Level is to help bridge that gap.

At the time of writing, €61,393 has been raised, with funds to be used to help remedy immediate costs, but also on a more long-term basis — not just in Tokyo this summer, but for Paralympians eyeing Paris 2024, Los Angeles 2028 and beyond.

“We have never undertaken anything like this before, but I know that the Irish public will rally around our athletes as they have in the past,” Paralympics Ireland President, John Fulham, said.

Both Streimikyte and Turner echoed those sentiments, both overwhelmed by the €60,000-plus raised so far — especially through these difficult times.

“That means so, so much to us,” T13 1500m runner Streimikyte beamed this morning. “It’s tough to describe it in words but it means so much.

“The public is always behind us and they’ve always supported us. To see how active they’ve been in a short period since the campaign was launched last Friday on The Late Late Show, that means so, so much to us and we’re so grateful. It’s absolutely incredible.”

Explaining the fundraiser in her own words, and offering a deeper account of just how important this is, Lithuanian-born Streimikyte continued:

“We as athletes, we work so hard to achieve the best possible performance and do the best we can possibly do. With this fundraiser, we’re asking for the public’s help. The public have been supportive throughout the years and that means so much to me and every athlete. It pushes us to perform even better, that support means so much.

“But with this campaign, we would ask the public to show their support with the fundraising. It’s not even for Tokyo 2021 but it’s more for the future Paralympic Games. That fund would allow us to reach the next level, to perform the best we can possibly perform.

“Paralympic sport is getting more and more competitive. As well with this campaign, it’s about representing equality. I think that’s very important for Paralympic sport and we’re still striving for it. In Ireland, I could say that when people know about Paralympic sport, they’re very supportive and recognise us equally with Olympics but that knowledge needs to be driven.

“That’s one thing, another is it’s very important to inspire future Paralympians and think about the future and future athletes who are going to be representing Ireland in the Games beyond Tokyo 2021.”

Turner, who appeared on Friday night’s Late Late to launch the campaign, spoke about that appearance from a personal perspective, and the humbling reaction which followed.

“It was actually amazing, it was quite scary but the support we got off it…

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“Obviously it was to ask people to go to paralympics.ie to help us and future athletes to get to the next level in Tokyo, Paris and LA because it is a hell of a lot of money and we’re asking the public to get behind us and support us all the way.

nicole1 Irish Paralympic swimmer, Nicole Turner, pictured following the announcement of Paralympics Ireland’s new fundraising campaign ‘The Next Level’. Source: Simon Burch 00353872754849 Ireland

“I think Friday evening they raised like €40k in two-and-a-half hours or something which is mind-blowing to see the Irish public do that and obviously we’re extremely grateful for that.”

Like Streimikyte, with both targeting Tokyo success this summer, Laois swimmer Turner was keen to hammer home that this was not just for the current crop of para-athletes, it’s for the next generation too.

“Obviously sport can be very expensive and between every athlete, you do see the tiredness and the amount of effort that goes in,” she concluded. “And people do get great satisfaction watching the Olympics and Paralympic Games.

“We’re just asking people to go to Paralympics.ie and donate – even a Euro, there’s so many people across Ireland, donate as little or as much as they can. It won’t obviously just have an effect on us, it’ll have an effect on upcoming Paralympians going to Paris in ’24 and LA in ’28.

“A lot of work went into it and there’s a few athletes involved in it, so we’re just trying to ask people to get behind us and give us that little bit of support.”

You can get behind the team now at: https://paralympics.ie, and you can read more here.

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

About the author:

Emma Duffy

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