Tony O’Donovan and William O’Brien

Tony O’Donovan and William O’Brien have been jointly named Cork Persons of the Month for April. Their unwavering dedication to empowering people with disabilities and enhancing the lives of children with additional needs has earned them this prestigious honour.

Tony O’Donovan’s tireless advocacy for children with additional needs, particularly those on the autism spectrum, has earned him widespread admiration and respect. Motivated by his son Kian, who is autistic. Tony has dedicated himself to enhancing the educational experience for these children.

An organised, dedicated and effective philanthropist, Tony begins his campaigning efforts in January of each year. He puts a particular focus on the month of April, as the 2nd of April marked annual World Autism Day. On this day each year Tony holds a draw with the help of donated spot prizes from members of the Ballyphehane and Togher business community to raise vital funds to support this cause. Tony also walks 100 miles every March to raise funds and much-needed awareness of the barriers faced by children with additional needs and/or autism.

Through these fundraising efforts Tony has raised close to €60,000. These have funded the provision of crucial supports to special education units, schools, and classrooms. His near decade-long commitment has facilitated the purchase of sensory equipment, the renovation of sensory rooms, and funding for school transport and community social outings. Schools in both Cork City and County have benefitted from Tony’s exemplary fundraising efforts.

Tony’s advocacy extends far beyond fundraising. He has been actively involved in initiatives such as the SuperValu Autism Friendly shopping hours and the development of the Autism Life-skill Friend Trolley, designed to enhance the shopping experience for families with autistic children.

“Tony’s commitment to supporting children with additional needs is truly inspiring,” commented Manus O’Callaghan. “His dedication and compassion exemplify the spirit of community service that we celebrate with the Cork Person of the Month award.”

William O’Brien is celebrated for his pioneering work in founding the social enterprise See My Skills, dedicated to providing employment supports to people with disabilities. Recognising the disproportionately high unemployment rates among individuals with disabilities in Ireland, William established See My Skills with a vision to create a more inclusive global workspace.

“At See My Skills, we aim to equip people with disabilities with workplace skills and experiences from an early age,” William explains. Through initiatives such as the Accelerator Schools Programme, which recently commenced across ten schools, See My Skills offers vital training in life and career skills, including goal setting, CV writing, and mock interviews, among others.

William’s commitment to fostering inclusivity extends beyond See My Skills. As a well-known figure in the Cork business community, he has demonstrated leadership and innovation in various fields, including crane hire and self-storage businesses. His dedication to creating opportunities for those facing barriers in the workforce aligns seamlessly with the values that make Cork a vibrant and caring community.

“William’s dedication to the betterment of Cork, as exemplified through his leadership in See My Skills, goes far beyond business success,” remarked Awards Organiser, Manus O’Callaghan. “By addressing an area of critical need in Ireland, See My Skills acts as a beacon of hope and change in the Cork community.”

Tony and William’s outstanding contribution to their respective causes has enriched the Cork community and beyond.

Their names will now go alongside other monthly winners for possible selection at the Cork Person of the Year at the annual Gala Awards Lunch to be held in January 2025.