Praxis Care is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2011 and held a Pearl Ball and Awards Ceremony in La Mon Hotel and Country Club on 8 April 2011 which was attended by a number of VIPs and celebrities.
One of the VIPs invited to the Pearl Ball was President of Ireland, Mary McAleese. Unfortunately President McAleese was unable to attend the Ball but to mark the 30th anniversary of Praxis Care, she generously invited 50 individuals to visit her at the Official Residence of the President of Ireland – Áras an Uachtaráin in Phoenix Park, Dublin.
Names were drawn out of a hat and it was with much excitement that a delegation of service users and staff from Praxis Care schemes in Coleraine, Larne, Newtownards, Magherafelt, Lurgan, Banbridge, Enniskillen, Kesh, Navan, Mullingar and Dublin set out for Dublin on Wednesday 11 May.
The group was delighted to meet President McAleese, who spent over an hour with them and took time to talk to each individual. Service users presented an oil painting of the Mountains of Mourne and a bouquet of flowers to the President to thank her for the kind invitation. The group then enjoyed refreshments before having a guided tour of the palace. The group was especially excited to know that within the following two weeks, the Queen and Barack Obama,President of the United States of America, would be following in their footsteps.
The party then departed Áras an Uachtaráin and made their way to Dublin Zoo where they had lunch and saw a variety of animals before departing Dublin and making their way home, tired but happy.
The group would like to thank the staff at The Secret Garden who provided much welcome refreshments in the Coffee Shop.
Christine Hitchcock, from Praxis Care Banbridge, has written an account of the day which can be viewed on the Banbridge page.