SHARE A Dream founder Shay Kinsella wants to recreate the magic of Disneyland at an all inclusive play indoor centre in Limerick, but the charity needs €1m to complete his vision.
The Limerick-based foundation has completed the purchase and lodged planning for Dreamland, a purpose built play centre for sick and disabled children, based at Park Point on the Dublin Road.
Mr Kinsella said at the centre’s launch this week that his project team have “designed something spectacular”.
“We can do this in Limerick, and show the whole of Europe that we are the first city to have an inclusive play centre, and really genuinely care about the less fortunate in our community,” he said.
“These kids are always on the sideline, they never get to play, they are never on the team. We have the power to do something. This is about being inclusive, it is not about being disabled.”
Share A Dream have helped over 23,000 kids to live out their dream over the past 24 years, “bringing childhood back” to sick children.
This massive venture has been something of a personal crusade for the Share A Dream founder, who wants to provide a play centre for all children alike and said the planned facility would be a “magical place”, that he hopes will be completed by Christmas.
“We are building a town inside, that the kids can be anything they want, be a fireman, a princess, anything,” he said.
“I am from Wexford but I dearly love Limerick, I love everything about it. Galway and Cork wanted this, but I said no, we will do it in Limerick.
“Don’t think these kids can’t enjoy themselves, I have been in Disneyland with this crazy crew. I have seen them, they are just trapped in terrible bodies, that is all that is wrong, but they are inside, they are kids and they can do things.
“We have enough talent in Limerick to be able to do this ourselves. If anyone wants to get involved in any way, we would love to have them on board.
“I am going to make this happen in Limerick. The only reason we won’t have this ready for Christmas - and I still want to do it - is just money. We have committed ourselves to a million, that is terrifying for me, but I know I can do that, if someone gives us the other million,” he added.
There were many families who have been helped by Share A Dream in attendance at the Castletroy Park on Monday to hear details of the Dreamland centre.
Linda O’Leary, from Clarina, whose daughter Nicola has Cerebral Palsy, spoke passionately in favour of the project.
“I have two kids, Nicola is 10 and Jack is 7,” she explained.
“In six weeks’ time, schools are going to close and we are going to be in summer. Normal families are going to go off and do regular things, Jack is going go to summer camp with his friends, Nicola is not going to do that, there is nowhere for her to go.
“We have a kind of fractured family where I am off in one direction doing stuff with Nicola one day or Jack another day. There is no place where we can be a family unit and we can do stuff together.
“I remember being in Disneyland with Shay in 2011, and we were standing inside Universal Studios. This magnificent place, it was magical with something different in every room. He turned to me and said, ‘I want to build one of these in Limerick. I want to build it for families like you, where there is inclusion, where you can do stuff as a family together’.
“I got so excited, because there is nothing like this and as families we need something like this, where we can be a normal family. That is why I feel this unit is so important, not just for my kid, but for every kid in Ireland, who deserves to have time out with their family.”
Corbally’s Lorraine O’Connor, whose “rugby-mad” daughter Megan, 6, uses a walker to get around, said the centre would “mean an awful lot”.
“It would be very good for them, it would be great. Something like this doesn’t really exist for kids, it would be great for her independence,” said Lorraine.
To get involved in fundraising for Share A Dream, see www.shareadream.ie.