Charity founder Emma and youth club volunteer Sorcha both received top awards this week.

Two inspirational young women from Co. Donegal have been honoured with Gold Gaisce Awards by President Michael D. Higgins.

Sorcha McElchar from Castlefin and Emma McKinley from Falcarragh were both celebrated at an event on Monday for their dedication towards personal development.

Emma McKinley from Falcarragh receiving her Gaisce Gold Award from President Michael D. Higgins on Monday 10th December 2018

Emma McKinley’s journey led her to establish her own charity fundraiser. Following the tragic death of a relative at sea, Emma set up ‘The Thumbs Up Cycle to raise money for the RNLI. She organised and took part in a 720km cycle from Mizen Head to Malin Head. She also volunteered with Barretstown Camp at Barretstown Castle in Co. Kildare where she helped run a summer camp for children living with haemophilia.

Emma Mc Kinley
Pic: Maxwell’s Photography

Emma learned German and became more active through cycling and swimming in order to achieve her Award. She became more involved in her local community by coaching Gaelic football, volleyball and athletics teams.

She described her Gaisce Gold Journey as “challenging, inspiring and AMAZING”.

Emma said, “I first started my Gaisce journey in 2005 with the bronze award, so the Gold award has been a long time coming but a challenge I am delighted to have finally achieved.

“Through this award, I have overcome many challenges. Through my physical skill, as well as competing in many cycling sportives across the country, I finally learned how to swim, something which I had always been afraid of doing.”

Sorcha McElchar from Castlefin receiving her Gold Award off Michael D. Higgins at the Gold Award Ceremony in Dublin on Monday 10th December

Sorcha McElchar’s challenge saw her learning to play the guitar, improving her general fitness through gym work, dance and yoga and volunteering with children at her local youth club.

Speaking about undertaking Gaisce, Sorcha said, “For me the Physical element of my award was always going to be the most difficult. Not to mention that once you are over the age of 18, it is very hard to find dance classes in Donegal. While I was looking for dance classes I thought I’d work on increasing my strength and flexibility, which was virtually non-existent to be honest!

“I went to the gym and started yoga.  It was really difficult at the beginning.  I was sore and tired all the time, but after a few weeks it started to get better.  I wouldn’t be as tired after a workout and my flexibility increased dramatically.”

Patron of Gaisce President Michael D. Higgins, presented 78 inspirational young people from across Ireland with their prestigious Gaisce Gold Awards in Dublin Castle on Monday.

This is the largest number of young people to have been honoured in any one ceremony since Gaisce, The President’s Award was founded in 1985. This year’s Awardees hail from 26 counties and 52 Gaisce Award Partners.