Members of the Carpe Diem walking group
In 2014, Elaine McHale was seeking motivation to get up early in the morning. She enjoyed walking but most groups she found were hiking groups that required a lot of time and often a long commute.
When she couldn’t find a group in Naas she decided to set one up herself.
Two local people responded and joined Elaine on a first morning walk starting at the parish church in Naas.
Because of purpose of the group was to get more from each day, the name Naas Carpe Diem Walkers seemed like a good fit.
The group grew steadily but remained relatively small for the first few years with 14 members. It was a very connected and close group that liked to engage socially too.
“From early on we decided we would celebrate member’s birthdays with a cake and a bit of a fun,” said Elaine.
That developed into other social and fun activities including an annual Christmas dinner, bowling, trips down the country, greenway trips, island walking trips and even a trip to the Lake District.
However, Elaine felt the group would benefit from having more members, not only for the walks but also for new perspectives and the skills they could contribute to the development of the group.
“We reached out through our Facebook page with support from Naas Ball, the Leinster Leader and the local parish newsletter as well as local walking directories.”
These initiatives brought more members to the group but numbers really grew during Covid-19.
“As a local group we could work within the 2km and 5km limits either individually or in small groups with social distancing, but the social contact was so important that it quickly became social lifeline for our members.”
Over the past 20 months the group has more than doubled in size and Elaine feels that the larger numbers bring more benefits to the group.
“We now have a large range of ages and abilities. We try to be as inclusive as possible, so ability doesn’t matter.
“Our hiking trips, that were once occasional, have now become more organised and take place every three weeks. All members get involved in organising new activities and there’s a great energy in the group.” They’ve also organised dance classes, treasure hunts, garden trips, a boat trip to Athlone, weekends away, greenway adventures and numerous other social get togethers.
The most recent event was a photo exhibition which told the story of individual and collective experiences as members of the group during Covid.
“We had been taking a lot of photos on our walks and sharing them on our WhatsApp so It seemed like a nice idea to tell a story through our photos. It also gave us an opportunity to reflect on what the group meant to us and members had an opportunity to lend their individual skills and talents from photography to project management, design, financial management and admin.”
The aim is to continue to leverage these skillsets within the group and beyond so that people can use, share and promote their skills to help others within the group and in the wider community.
“I think that Covid has made us much more aware of the importance of community and social connections. Community relationships are important because they provide people with a sense of connectedness — we experienced this very strongly in our group but also in the relationships we developed with other community groups and local businesses.
“These relationships are often based on reciprocity and on how we can support each other.”
They know how important the group has been during Covid — it has been a lifeline to its members but equally important has been its connections and engagement with the community.
The Naas Carpe Diem Walkers have tried to contribute more to the community by linking in with other community groups and local businesses and supporting them where they can.
This has generated a lot of goodwill and they are much more aware of things happening in the town.
They have now forged strong links with a number of local groups including the Naas History Group. Members of this group have co-hosted a number of historical walks around the town and environs including a tour of Maudlins Cemetery on the Dublin Road.
“We feel it is very important to highlight the wealth of heritage and culture in the local area. We have partnered with the Naas Mens’ Shed, McAuley Place and Moat Theatre for social events. We have also partnered with Celbridge Walking Tours for wonderful history walks and talks over the past summer.”
The group has been supported by Urban Kitchen “who really kept us going during Covid” and they provided sheltered outdoor seating that allowed them to have a tea of coffee when there were few other places open early in the morning.
“It’s this kind of community connection, forged and cemented through Covid, which has been so important.
“The Naas Carpe Diem Walkers hope is that everyone has the opportunity to improve their health, both physical and mental, by participating in our walks, to be connected, empowered, have fun and feel included and part of the groups and also the Naas community.
“We believe that building connections between ourselves and the wider community leads to more inclusive, healthier and happier communities.”
The Naas Carpe Diem Walkers try to host two evening walks on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7pm starting at the same meeting point. The evening walks are organised based on availability of walkers.
They also organise hikes once every three weeks and look forward to organising their weekend trips when restrictions allow.
For more information on the Naas Carpe Diem walkers please contact membership secretary Sandra Butler on firstname.lastname@example.org or chairperson Elaine McHale on 087 6102428.
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