Gerald Kean with his partner Natanya Cafolla at the Annual Charity Gala Ball, in the Heritage Hotel , Killenard . Photo: Michael Scully.
Celebrity solicitor Gerald Kean is confident that Laois will get its Down Syndrome Centre of Excellence, with his continued support.
"I'm very keen on seeing it take off, it's going to take off. Anywhere I can help I will," he said.
He has revealed to the Leinster Express that an offer of a site in Laois was made within minutes of him pledging €10,000 to kickstart the project.
The offer was made last week, after his MC speech at the annual Charity Gala Ball in Killenard, where he is special guest for the past 11 years.
"It happened on the night, we did it on the night," said Mr Kean, who has supported a similar 'Field of Dreams' Centre to get up and running in his native Cork.
However the Down Syndrome Ireland Laois Branch now says it had to regretfully turn down that site.
"We had a very kind offer, but unfortunately it was in an unsuitable location, close to the Kyletalesha landfill, so we had to turn it down. We are still looking for a donation of a site," said PRO Mick Gorman.
The site needs to be at least 2 acres, on green land that can be developed.
The vision is of a centre offering employment training to adults with Down Syndrome in Laois, including organic horticulture and a pottery, with on-site shops sell their produce, all operated by them. Members could upskill in areas of their choosing, and then work at the centre or out in the community, for a genuine wage.
Mick Gorman explains why the centre of excellence is so vital.
"Our branch has hugely invested in early intervention for children with Down Syndrome, but we have found that older people actually need that support throughout their lives. Over time emotional issues can manifest themselves, and a lot of that is because they have no meaningful employment for a decent wage, no reason to get out of bed," he said.
"Gerald Kean's offer has really added impetus," he added.
To find out more, contact chairperson Margaret Miron at 086 8064135, or Mick at 086 0491633.