Sophie Named 2015 Pramerica All-Ireland Youth Volunteer of the Year

Sophie Donnelly from Gorey, Co. Wexford has been recognised for the motivation, service and impact she has demonstrated in her school and local community.

Sophie, along with Michael Keohane, from Cork was named the 2015 Pramerica All-Ireland Youth Volunteer of the Year at a Gala Awards Ceremony in the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa by special guest Brent Pope on Thursday March 12th 2015. Sophie received €1,000 for a charity of her choice, a gold medallion, a crystal trophy for her school and an all-expense paid trip to the United States in May - to participate in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards ceremony.

Sophie Donnelly who is a sixth year student at Presentation Secondary School, Co. Wexford, has a keen interest in volunteering and is involved in many mental health initiatives. Since the loss of her sister to suicide, Sophie has become passionate about raising awareness of how common mental illness can be, and promoting the message “it’s ok not to feel ok”. Sophie wants to combat the stigma of mental illness and suicide and has gone about doing so in a number of ways.

In 2013, Sophie undertook a training week at St Patrick’s mental health hospital. Since then, she has held a ‘Walk in my Shoes’ day at her own school as well as introducing it to other schools throughout Wexford. The event encourages students and teachers alike to wear mismatched shoes in order to appreciate how those suffering from mental illness feel when being judged by others .

Further to this, Sophie is a keen participant in Cycle against Suicide (CAS), having cycled both in this event and their monthly spin off programmes. Sophie also founded her school ‘Mental Health Awareness Team,’ and through this has organised a number of activities promoting positivity throughout the school.

Speaking about Sophie, her teacher, Mary Dooley says “with a personal vision, outstanding dedication, and a never wavering self-belief – all formidable in one so young – has allowed Sophie to touch the hearts of many.”

The only all-Ireland youth initiative of its kind is run in partnership with The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) and The General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI) and recognises outstanding acts of volunteerism by Ireland's youth. The twenty finalists in the Spirit of Community Awards all received €500 and a silver medallion in recognition for their outstanding acts of volunteerism.

Sophie pictured on left with Brent Pope receiving her award.