Child’s play: Football club’s Christmas season appeal edges towards target

Bohemians again aiming to provide a present for every child in a Direct provision centre

As the Late Late Show’s appeal again raised millions in a matter of hours, the annual effort by Dublin football club Bohemians to buy a present for every child in Direct Provision was edging closer to its rather more modest target on Saturday with more than €60,000 in the kitty.

The aim is to make it to €80,000 which would be enough for a present worth around €35 for each of the roughly 2,500 children in centres in Ireland. If they exceed that amount, says Daniel Lambert, the club official behind the scheme, the kids get better presents.

Bohemians have successfully run the appeal for the last few years with club member Kevin Brannigan initially forging links with the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (Masi) when he started raising funds to pay for a bus to bring asylum seekers from a centre in Clondalkin to games.

The first Christmas present drive was a small affair, aimed at buying presents for kids in that centre.

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“The way it was done at that stage, people would come in and you’d give them a name and tell them what age they were and whether it was a boy or a girl and they’d go off into town and buy then something. People loved it, it went rally well but we got thinking that there were a lot more kids in this position and there was no way really you do it on a bigger scale without streamlining the process a bit.”

DHL, who work with the club’s merchandising operation and are also a club sponsor, came on board to help with logistics while Smyths handle the order for toys, throwing in €5,000 worth themselves and the RDS provide a base to put the packages together. The rest comes down to the public with donations ranging from a couple of quid to €20,000 this year mainly made through the appeal’s GoFundMe page.

“We still take donations of toys too as some people like giving that way and it’s nice,” says Lambert.

“Things were a bit slow to start with this year, which is totally understandable with the way things are for people at the moment, but that one big donation helped keep the running total up,” he says. “It has really picked up now, though, and we are hopeful we’ll make the target again.”

What that will mean is another enormous delivery of toys, clothes and, for the older kids, vouchers in December with 100 pallets going to 42 centres last year.

“It varies hugely,” he says. “We sent five or six pallets to Mosney last year and one box to the only child, a girl of 10, in a centre in Leitrim.

“The content varies a bit too. We try to give the likes of football, sliotars, Twister to kids in centres where there is the space for activities. We’ve gotten to know a bit about the centres we are dealing with and it works better with some than others. Some have common areas or space to play, some don’t really have any at all.

“Hurls are good, they are great for the kids and they actually help with the packing too. Some guy drove up last year from Kilkenny or Tipperary and gave is a load of them, which was great. We had a bookshop in Navan that gave us a lot of children’s books too.”

The appeal won’t include Ukrainian children this year, in part so many are moving about so quickly, or, as is pointed out regularly on social media, Irish ones with other organisations catering for those sections of society, says Lambert.

“There’s a ton of problems in this country and Bohemians football club would love to be able to fix them all but obviously that’s never going to happen,” he says.

“We work with Focus Ireland, have given them €15,000 or €16,000 over the last year or two, we work with the homeless, and prisoners in Mountjoy, we work in lots of areas but you only see the comments when it is to do with people in DP which speaks volumes.

“Nobody sees that we are doing comedy workshops with prisoners in Mountjoy and asks why we aren’t doing them with people outside.

“In the end, it’s a good thing. You are helping children here. It’s about some seven or eight year-old having a present at Christmas. It’s hard to see how anyone can object to that really.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Industry and Employment Correspondent at The Irish Times