A SOUTHSIDE school has received a festive boost - thanks to the generosity of its Bostonian benefactor.
Philanthropist Billy Higgins was at the Southill Junior School to present a cheque for €5,000, which will be used to develop its after-school facility.
Mr Higgins has been fundraising for the Southill community since he first visited in 1985, and was stunned by the generosity of the people here, when he brought visitor s to Limerick for a holiday.
Following this, he said he would never forget them.
And for the last 27 years, he has returned to Ireland each year to present the community with the efforts of his fundraising through the year.
The businessman uses his extensive contacts throughout the Boston area to raise money for the southside community through fundraisers, and golf classics.
As well as the school, he has helped Southill House and the local boxing club.
“It’s great to be here: we are excited about the school, what everyone does in the school, and how great they are,” he said.
Since he began fundraising, he has set up a charitable organisation, the Southill Childrens Fund, and has raised hundreds of thousands of euro since.
On a number of occasions, the regeneration agency has agreed to match his efforts.
“In 1985, unemployment was high, people were not working. But I told the families I would never forget them, and I have been back every year since,” he added.
School principal Mary Blenner-Hassett praised Mr Higgins, saying his efforts give the students experiences they would not normally enjoy.
“It helps us to support the projects we plan. These will give children opportunities outside school to take them to the theatre, and things like this which we do not have funding for transport, for example.
We also took children to Buttercup Farm in Croom last week, which was wonderful,” she said.
With the latest tranche of funding, Ms Blenner-Hassett plans to develop the after-school club, potentially hiring someone with further expertise.
Former mayor Kevin Kiely said Mr Higgins is a “tremendous friend” to the Southill parish. Mr Higgins also met Mayor Gerry McLoughlin at the school, and extended an invite to Boston’s St Patrick’s Day parade.
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