Under the Athy GAA colours and the Glenn Ryan portrait, Leon Kenny took to the chair for the tenth year and opened the annual St Vincent’s Hospital Charity Auction at Athy GAA Club on Sunday April 10.
The sun beamed through the GAA roof as the bidding commenced.
Auctioneer Mr Kenny, a retired detective garda and father of last year’s Rose of Tralee Charmaine, sold items for hours, giving his voice quite a workout.
“Here we go, and how much to go on that? Give me E5 to start that... give me E7... how ‘bout E10?”
Phrases like this were heard all evening inside the GAA club at the Athy Showgrounds. More than 150 items were donated by local businesses and the community to be sold: lamps, chairs, records, book shelves, hair vouchers, dinner with a TD, a piano, an old accordion and many, many more.
Most in the 150-strong crowd have personal experience with St Vincent’s. Mary Prender knows firsthand how the hospital works.
“I am here to support St Vincent’s. All my family have been there. My father, my uncles. The hospital is close to my heart. Lots of lovely things have taken my fancy today,” she said.
“Mary and I have been coming to this auction all 10 years, really and truly and it is a place we would not miss,” said Liam Buckley. “No matter what goes on, or if Kildare is playing, we come here, Because it’s for St Vincent’s and most of us have somebody up there or connected to the family. They do such wonderful work up there. It’s one of the best causes you could every support. And sure Mary won’t let me go anywhere without her,” he joked.
Volunteer Paul McMahon has been working at the auction since it began in 2001. “People have been very good to support us through the years, they keep coming back. People buy and donate every year. It has grown greatly and a great loyal following in Athy and the surrounding areas.”
Speaking to the Leinster Leader, coordinator of the activities centre Siobhan Minchin said the auction is vital for patients in that funds raised enables activities to take place that give them a better quality of life.
“They longer we can keep people enjoying the music sessions, bingo, arts and craft, the longer we can keep their minds and memory. This charity is everything to us. We have Santa every year and every resident gets a Christmas present, you have a Christmas party, the musical sessions, instruments, arts and craft, bingo. The auction is extremely important for us. We don’t get any money from the HSE for this. The community in Athy is fantastic, very supportive,” explained Ms Minchin, who had her eye on some candleholders.
Auctioneer Mr Kenny explained: “All funds raised here today are used for the social and recreational facilities in the hospital. There is just a shortfall in the hospital system.”
Mr Kenny is a charity auctioneer pro, starting out in the local school where his children went and, more recently, for the Little Way Cancer Society and the Irish Wheelchair Association. A retired detective, did he get his training from the force? “Maybe it’s my hard neck, I don’t know,” he joked. Simply put: “It’s something I do for the community, it takes up my time for only a weekend and it’s for a great cause.”
By the end of the auction more than E11,000 was raised and every euro will be donated to St Vincent’s activity programme.
“We are absolutely delighted,” said hospital matron Helen Dreelan. “Our activity programme will be well funded for the next year. The people of Athy are genuinely the most supportive of the entire county. The GAA club gave us the hall Friday to Monday, Leon volunteered his time, along with many other volunteers, and the people of Ballymore have been hugely supportive of me too. The money raised went beyond our expectations, we sold everything.”
And what lucky item did the matron pick up, but a lunch date with Deputy Jack Wall. “I bid on the luncheon with Jack Wall in the Dail. I am delighted I won and maybe it will be a great opportunity to meet new Minister for Health!”