Scout member Aoibhinn Daly presents Katie Whelan, Lisa's Light with €445, alongside Jessica Rennicks and Fr Derek Leonard in the Shannon Banks scout hall Picture: Brendan Gleeson
A BEAM of light offering a message of hope could soon appear in Limerick city’s night sky – thanks to a former Limerick Person of the Year.
Katie Whelan, 21, who lost her young cousin Lisa to suicide, has helped erect a series of lights on Thomond Bridge offering positive messages to those who may be in distress.
Off the back of this, aged at just 18, she set up the Lisa’s Light charity, which aims to raise awareness of the need to look after people who may be depressed or suicidal.
The former Ard Scoil Mhuire student travels to schools across the region to raise awareness.
Now, she plans to take the concept of positive lights in the sky further.
“One other big thing we’re looking to do is give Limerick it’s own ‘beam of hope’. We’ve looked as far as Turkey to get it manufactured. It would be a big massive light beam shining in the sky above Limerick. There’s going to be no ‘Bat’ sign, but we hope to have a hope message which will constantly beam into Limerick’s sky to let everyone know when they look up, that there is always someone for them, there is always someone to speak to,” Katie explained.
She made the comments as she accepted a cheque for €445 from the Shannon Banks scout group.
They raised the money after creating a crib over Christmas, which they accepted donations for. Local parish priest, Fr Derek Leonard told them: “I think it’s lovely the fact you're prepared to help people less well off than yourselves. It is about looking outside yourselves. You learn a lot from scouts. If you learn to think beyond yourselves and be aware of those most in need, you learn a lot.”
Another charity which benefited from the Scouts’ efforts was Barnado’s.
Thanks to a clothes collection over Christmas, some €250 was raised for the children’s and family charity, which has its Limerick base in Bishop Street.
Claire McConville, Barnado’s, said: “We’re really grateful you’ve thought of us, and we’ll definitely put the money to good use.”
She added: “There are lots of reasons why we help families. They might need someone to fix up their house. We can use money towards buying paint and wallpaper if that’s what the family needs. Or there might be someone which has happened which is maybe a bit sad like a bereavement. We would help boys and girls with their feelings.”
Katie, from the Dublin Road, was named Limerick’s Person of the Year in 2015 after leading a campaign aged just 18, which resulted in life-affirming messages being posted along Thomond Bridge.
She secured backing from Alphaset to make the light boxes, and won the support of thousands of people – crucially including Limerick City and County Council – for her project.
At the time, Katie was one of the youngest recipients of the top award.