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Helping Lakers Rise from the Ashes

August 8, 2019
By FH4Inclusion

For nearly 30 years, our Dublin team has maintained a relationship with Special Olympics and other causes supporting people with intellectual disabilities. In 2003, the team was immensely proud to have played an important role in the hugely successful Special Olympics World Summer Games in Ireland – the first time the Games had been held outside of the United States.

When FH4Inclusion launched in 2016, members of FleishmanHillard’s Dublin office looked at a number of causes to support but we were drawn to a unique organisation responsible for many of Ireland’s Special Olympians – Lakers.

Lakers, so named because their founder, Claire Brady, loved the Los Angeles Lakers, began as a vibrant sports club but has transformed into so much more. The organization now offers cookery, art, music and drama, in addition to various sports, as part of the weekly programme . Lakers is almost entirely run and organised by volunteers from the local community who give up their time to ensure services are available for members, seven days a week. The unique sports club differentiates itself by allowing its members to choose the provided program activities.

Lakers members singing at the launch of their new premises.

In October 2018, a devastating fire ripped through the Lakers’ clubhouse, rendering the facility unsafe for use. The fire also destroyed Lakers’ fleet of four buses, which were essential for transporting members to and from the club. From what appeared to be a situation where Lakers very existence was in jeopardy, began an extraordinary community response. Within hours of the fire, the community’s response was extraordinary.  Locals rallied to find a temporary location and busses for transportation, so the program could continue.

We were one of the local organizations that connected with Lakers after the fire to offer our support. Initially, their focus was to find a new permanent location as the fire had completely destroyed the old clubhouse and left no possibility to rebuild on that location. Fortunately, a local church had recently and offered its old facilities to Lakers as a new long-term home. Over the past six months, this location has been redeveloped into a magnificent new home for Lakers, equipped with meeting rooms, an art room, kitchen, sports and recreation hall, an outdoor five-a-side soccer pitch, a golf putting green and a spacious garden with a barbeque and outdoor stage.

Apart from very small state support, all the funding comes from local fundraising – hence Lakers’ success and sustainability is dependent on awareness of the services they provide. Their first ask of us was to help them drive publicity for the relaunch of their new location. We devised an integrated communications programme to help deliver on this, but first we invited several members and volunteers to come to our offices for one of our regular ‘Lunch & Learn’ sessions to tell their story first hand.

On the day of the Lakers’ clubhouse grand opening, our Dublin office was on-site from beginning to end and ensured the Lakers received the media attention the organization deserved. The launch was even attended by Ireland’s Minister for Health, Simon Harris, as well as other local dignitaries.

Irish Minister for Health Simon Harris T.D., at the official opening of the new Lakers premises.

In addition to supporting the Lakers with the kick-off celebrations of their new home, we’ve also had the pleasure to support them with other non-communication efforts since our partnership began. This includes volunteering time to events and participating in special activities, including sports, cooking and music. Our last big opportunity to support Lakers was at their annual Summer Barbeque and Awards Day. A large team of FleishmanHillard employees, family members and friends volunteered during the event. We prepared the venue, cooked and served food for more than 400 members and their families.

Later this year, we’ll host a fundraising Celebrity Table Quiz Night where FleishmanHillard staff, friends and clients can play alongside local celebrities and sports personalities. Our plan is to raise €5,000 – bring it on!

Minister for Health Simon Harris T.D., with Lakers, member Janet White, as they celebrated the open of their new club in Bray.

Lakers is a truly unique club. There is no other member-run club supported by the community in this country. For all of us in our Dublin office, it has been a privilege and a true learning experience. We hope our work and service for Lakers continues into the years to come because we have formed a bond that we don’t plan to let go of any time soon.

Julian Davis helps lead the social and innovation practice in FleishmanHillard’s Dublin office.