Helen Kearney’s welcome home.

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(Picture of Helen Kearney in London. Source: Scott Heavey/Getty Images Europe)

I have more photos and things to say about Canada but first I want to tell you where I was on Saturday afternoon. I went to join hundreds of others in Dunlavin, Co. Wicklow, to welcome Helen Kearney home from the Paralympics. She won three medals – two bronze and one silver – in Equestrian Dressage and she got to meet Ryan Tubridy on the Late Late show!

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(Some of the supporters. When she was younger Helen was in the Newcastle Lyons Pony Club)

Helen has a progressive degenerative disorder called Friedreich’s Ataxia and when she was diagnosed at the age of twelve her parents did something amazing – they bought her a horse. I’ve known Helen’s mum, Mary, since I was little – she’s my cousin – so it doesn’t surprise me but it does inspire me.

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(Supporters came from Hollywood… Co.Wicklow)

I arrived early on Saturday as the groups of supporters were getting ready. There was great excitement and pride and everyone was smiling. Bunting had been stretched across the street and between the houses and almost every window displayed a picture of Helen. I had forgotten to bring my camera but had my phone – the pictures are a bit fuzzy.

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(At the GAA club, speeches and clapping… lots of clapping)

The celebration began with a parade of horses and ponies and vintage cars and local groups, and it seemed like the whole town had turned out. We followed the parade to the GAA club and there were speeches and presentations and even poetry. The community of Dunlavin had organised the event and had baked cakes and buns so after the speeches we retired to the club house to drink tea and eat the cakes.

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(One of the cakes, yum)

It was lovely meeting up with my cousins and my aunt Brigid (Helen’s granny) to celebrate a brilliant achievement and an inspiring young woman. Oh and I nearly forgot while she was in London competing Helen also graduated in absentia from University College Dublin with a Bachelor of Commerce!

Thank you Helen, for following your dream, Mairead.