Some of the TY students of St. Mary's College
The Cycle travels around the island of Ireland over a 14 day period, visiting schools during the day and staying in host towns overnight. This year, they travelled through 85 towns, of which Arklow was the final stop on their mission to make people aware that it's OK not to feel OK and it's absolutely OK to ask for help. Our goal was to find beds in local homes for cyclists and crew members on the Friday evening after their arrival at St. Mary's College, so that they could have a hot meal, a comfortable bed and a decent breakfast the next day before heading off on the last day of the Cycle.
Turning Arklow orange
For a small town like Arklow, it was a big ask, especially considering that I'm not a local and wouldn't have the natural contacts I would in my own home town, like school and family friends. Fortunately, I was working with another lady who had integrated herself slightly better into local society than I had - it's clear that having children helps you to form new friends from the school gates, social activities and sports clubs - and her contacts were invaluable. From my end, the power of social media was my lifeline : a friend in Australia from the area contacted her Mum who in turn spread the word, and so the list of hosts started to grow. I'll be very frank, I had no idea what I was getting into when I was asked to help and with hindsight, I might have run away screaming. However, I'm nothing if not tenacious, so I stuck at it. Local support came from the most unexpected quarters and were were hugely grateful for everybody's time and effort to transform our small town into a sea of orange to support the Cycle. It really hit home when I drove down the Main Street the morning of the arrival and saw that shop after shop had decorated their windows, displayed posters and hung out balloons and bunting. It's amazing what people can do when they join together.
We did it!
The arrival of the Cycle passed in a blur as we were frantically trying to match up hosts with their cyclists and crew - at times I felt like Cilla Black! Welcome speeches were made by Aidan, the principal of St. Mary's, Jim Breen, the founder of the Cycle and me (there were a lot of local people and companies who deserved to be publicly thanked) But all too soon, they had departed and the school hall was quiet - our job was done. Myself and Carmel collapsed onto a bench outside the school, shocked that we had achieved our goal. There even may have been a large drink or two that night in Christy's, the local pub who supported us.
it's OK not to feel ok, and it's absolutely OK to ask for help.