Strabane woman Irene Adair and her team from Northern Ireland Electricity Network’s Omagh office conquered the Belfast Marathon in support of the National Deaf Children’s Society on Sunday, 5 May.

Irene works in the Northern Ireland Electricity Networks office in Omagh. She put together a team of 14 runners, comprised of 12 workmates – all members of the company’s Enniskillen Sports and Social Club – plus Rebecca Boylan and Mairead Hurson. They had the novel idea of tackling the marathon as a relay race, with three teams each running one third of the total distance.

Belfast Marathon in support of the National Deaf Children’s Society

Irene’s fellow marathon runners were: team 1: Irene Adair, Niall Collins, Garry Connell, Barry McAleer and Martin McManus; team 2:, Rory Lynch, Brendan McGrade, Niall McGurren, Neil Mullan and Ali Usher; team 3: Rebecca and Kenny Boylan, Raymond Henderson and Kieran and Mairead Hurson.

Irene was inspired to take on her marathon fundraising challenge by her grandson, Hunter, who has profound hearing loss and whose Londonderry family is receiving ongoing support from the National Deaf Children’s Society.

Irene and her team are confident of reaching their fundraising target of £1,400 very soon, all of which will be donated to the National Deaf Children’s Society, which supports the UK’s 50,000 deaf children, and the over 1,600 deaf children in Northern Ireland.

Irene said:

“What a great day we had! I have nothing but praise for my wonderful colleagues and friends, who proved that with teamwork, anything is possible.

“What kept us going most of all was the thought that we were doing it for such a great charity, one which I have a very personal reason for supporting.

“I really hope the money we raised will help more families in Northern Ireland, just like Hunter’s.”

Alasdair O’Hara, of the National Deaf Children’s Society’s Northern Ireland office, said:

“I want to say a huge congratulations to Irene, her team and all our wonderful runners in the Belfast Marathon who took on this event for the National Deaf Children’s Society. It’s an incredible achievement and we’re so grateful for every penny they’ve raised.

“Thanks to the selflessness of supporters like Irene and her team, we’re able to keep supporting deaf children and their families in Northern Ireland and across the UK, now and into the future.”

Irene’s challenge took place on the eve of Deaf Awareness Week, which runs from 6 to 12 May. This year, the National Deaf Children’s Society is throwing the spotlight on isolation and loneliness among deaf children. To combat this, the charity has come up with five simple steps to help hearing people communicate better with deaf children:

  1. Every deaf child will have a preferred method, so find out if they use speech, British Sign Language or a mixture of both.
  2. Speak clearly and naturally. Deaf children will try to lip-read, so speak as you normally would. Speaking slowly or too loudly makes lip-reading much more difficult.
  3. Make sure they can see your mouth. Covering your mouth with your hands, eating or chewing can make lip-reading very difficult. It also muffles any sound you’re making.
  4. Use visual cues where possible. Point to what you’re talking about, and don’t be shy about using gestures to support your communication.
  5. Don’t give up and never say “I’ll tell you later”. Deaf children want to be involved just like their friends, so if one method doesn’t work, don’t be scared to improvise, such as typing things on your phone or writing on pieces of paper.

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