We found our AXA Community Heroes!

After reading through 1,000 amazing submissions, we are delighted to announce our five AXA Community Hero winners.

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We’re dedicated to supporting and celebrating the people who go above and beyond for others in their communities. We started with AXA Farm Hero and then Covid Car Cover. The stories we received were a glimpse into the inspiring farmers and medics all over the country that work hard every day to help others.

With AXA Community Hero, that glimpse became a big shining light. You sent us over 1,000 stories, sharing the inspiring work done by community heroes all over Ireland.

Let’s meet the winners

Each winner will receive £5,000 for themselves, and AXA will donate £20,000 to a charity of each winner’s choice.

Eric Beggs, from Louth

Over the past 15 years, Eric has raised £150,000 for Fighting Blindness, an Irish charity with a vision to cure blindness and support people living with sight loss.

Eric was diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition in his forties, and has no eyesight left as a result. Shortly after Eric was introduced to Fighting Blindness and fundraising by his good friend, Peter Coleman who unfortunately passed away. Since then, Eric continued Peter’s work and has completed treks, tandem cycles, Easter egg hunts, church gate collections and more to raise money for the charity. He has organised events every single year for the past 15 years, spending his personal time tirelessly fundraising and raising awareness.

Due to Eric’s advancing age, he turned 71 this year, he is retiring from organising large events and sticking to church gate collections from now on.

The AXA Community Hero award was the perfect way to mark his illustrious fundraising career and to celebrate his hard work and dedication.

Eric has chosen Fighting Blindness for his £20,000 donation. He explained ‘the research they are doing is at a breakthrough stage and I would do anything for the charity’.

Oliver Lynch, from Cork

Oliver is 8 years old from Ballincollig and has Cerebral Palsy. Despite his young age, Oliver has already raised over £30,000 for 3 separate charities in Cork (Enable Ireland, Dogs for the Disabled and The CUH Charity) by walking 5 kilometres in 50 days.

At the start of the challenge it would take him almost 45 minutes to walk 100 metres. But every day Oliver got up and showed amazing resilience. He went outside in all types of weather and completed his challenge. He has had great support from his Mam Alison, Dad Kevin, sister Caoimhe and twin brother Reuben.

Oliver is still walking every day and has got so strong that he will now complete the 100 metres track in front of his house in about 10 minutes.

His courage and bravery during the pandemic inspired his family and everyone in his local community. Following his hugely impressive story, the young hero got a well-deserved letter from the President.

Oliver has chosen to split his £20,000 donation over 3 charities again – Enable Ireland, Dogs for the Disabled and The CUH Charity.

Gary Rutherford, from Derry

After overcoming his own addiction, Gary created Addiction Recovery Coaching (ARC). ARC is a non-profit organisation that uses exercise and community to help people struggling with addiction to get and stay sober.

Using his own professional experience in mental health nursing and personal training, he runs the organisation in his free time to bring a positive change to the city he lives in. ARC already has 20 active members who have gone through the programme themselves over the last year and a half and have remained involved to support other people now going through the programme. Gary has designed a 6-week recovery programme which blends twice weekly physical training sessions in his gym with daily online recovery content and a weekly support group.

Gary founded ARC on the premise that hope is contagious. He wants to be a part of changing the conversation around addiction. He has set up family and community supports to move away from stigmatising language and labels and to help change lives.

For his £20,000 donation, he has chosen The Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum for the work they do in health and wellness for the community.

James O’Connor, from Offaly

James felt his world had ended after his little girl died. He bottled things up and eventually had a serious breakdown and attempted suicide. He battled through his struggles with mental health and over the years learned how to deal with this tragedy and has come to value the role of counselling in helping people to recover. James has become the go-to person in the community for people seeking help for suicidal family members. While he is a deeply private man, he regularly gives talks to adolescents in an effort to reduce the stigma around mental health. James has become an ambassador for See Change, and uses his own story to challenge the stigma around mental health.

In early 2020, James built on his hard work and set up Accessible Counselling Tullamore (ACT) for the benefit of adults in the midlands. ACT benefits thousands of people in the community around Tullamore by providing professional counselling which is accessible to all. The not-for-profit charity perfectly demonstrates James' dedication to his community, altruism and vision.

For his £20,000 donation, James has chosen ACT to help build on the great foundations he has already set.

Geraldine Molloy, from Dublin

Geraldine’s journey with Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) began four and a half years ago when she heard they were looking for volunteer hairdressers. Eager to get involved, Geraldine, a retired hairdresser, put her skills to use and cut over 100 heads of hair that day!

Since then, Geraldine has become central to ICHH and the supports they provide – volunteering across a number of areas from outreach and food distribution to case management and mental health supports.

Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on homelessness but Gerladine has continued to go above and beyond to help those who need it most – often working 12-hour days as part of a skeleton crew. Whether its supporting families in emergency accommodation or pensioners cocooning due to Covid-19, Geraldine is motivated by a love for what she does. Gerlaldine’s passion, selflessness and work ethic make her a true community hero.

For her £20,000 donation, Geraldine has chosen ICHH to support the great work they do to help those in need.

__Thank you from AXA __

A huge congratulations to our five winners, who have inspired their communities by their selfless and heroic commitment to helping others.

We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who took part and sent in their stories. It’s heartwarming to see the wonderful sense of community in cities, towns and villages all over Ireland.