Five years ago, Elaine Lande, mother of Emma who has Down syndrome, went scouting around for additional activities that might interest her daughter, and came across a club called Lakers in Bray, Co.Wicklow. Elaine soon learned that this was a community-based recreational and social club for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Finding the Lakers club transformed not just Emma’s life, but that of her family as well.
Elaine says that every Saturday, they now drop Emma, aged 10, off at St Thomas’s Hall and the members are helped to do all kinds of activities in a fun-filled way, ranging from outings to summer camps. Elaine says that the Lakers’ model is to have lots of volunteers, as the organisation operates on a very low budget and that they are also completely transparent when it comes to finances.
One of the most important aspects of the club is the Lakers’ ethos, which states, “Each member is unique, has their own abilities, and is entitled to a better future. Members develop skills through a range of activities from sport to drama and promote social skills, growth in self-confidence and self-esteem”.
Emma’s mother says that Emma was a little nervous when she first encountered Lakers because, by nature, she is a sensitive child. But the enthusiastic volunteers at Lakers persisted, and eventually Emma began to participate in some of the 39 different activities on offer, and the young girl is now a fully committed member.