Donegal School Pupils Safety Awareness Campaign using Car Air Fresheners, with proceeds donated to the NRH Foundation 

Students of Scoil Mhuire in Donegal, devastated by the deaths of 13 of its past pupils – all in their teens and early 20s – in car crashes over the past 13 years created a major road safety campaign.  The caring Young Social Innovators (YSI) class at Scoil Mhuire in Buncrana, produced a car air freshener aimed at promoting road safety awareness.

The launch of the campaign comes less than a month after Nathan Dixon-Gill (17) and Nathan Farrell (18) became the latest former pupils of the school to be killed on the roads.  Three other teenagers, who also attended Scoil Mhuire, were injured in the crash.  Parents of those who have lost their lives are backing the initiative.

Among those at the launch in the school were Mary Hegarty and Elaine Strain whose sons, John (21) and Martin (19), lost their lives in separate accidents only weeks apart, on the same stretch of road in 2015.

1,000 air fresheners were produced with the proceeds going to the NRH Foundation supporting the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH).  The NRH is the only service of its type in the country providing complex medical specialist rehabilitation services for adults and children and where many of those seriously injured in car crashes across Ireland come for their rehabilitation treatment.

 YSI student, Niamh Breslin explained how the project came about:

“Our YSI class had to come up with a topic that was a problem in the area and we decided that road safety was a big problem because so many students from our school have lost their lives in road accidents – everybody knows everybody who has died, so we wanted to do something to make a change.  Firstly, we decided we would put up a ‘Slow Down, Save Lives’ road sign but when we contacted the County Council they said this ‘wasn’t possible,’ so we decided we would do something else and one day in class one of the boys said we should raise money for people who have been affected by car crashes and then we came up with the idea of doing an air freshener in the shape of an angel to represent all those who have lost their lives because they are all angels.”

Niamh said the school has been “badly affected” by the road deaths.  She added: “Everyone knows someone who has been affected and within the last month we lost another two former students.”

Principal Rosaleen Grant said the school had been “devastated” by road tragedies and paid tribute to the YSI class.  She said:  

“I am very proud of the pupils and their YSI project.  The class would have known boys who would have died and they thought it would be a great idea to get drivers to slow down and they thought what would drivers always see and that was a car air freshener in the form of an angel which they hope will get the message across.  They devised it, sourced the material, a supplier and then went and got two sponsors, George McLaughlin from Motor Factors in Buncrana and Martin Reilly, from Martin Reilly Motors in Sligo, and the project has gone from success to success.  For a school that has been so devastated by tragedies this is a great idea and it is great that it is coming from boys and girls thinking it could lessen or decrease the tragedies and fatalities that are happening far too often on our roads.”

 YSI teacher, Marie Boyce said:

“The class have shown great innovation. They worked great together as a team.  They care about the issue and are trying to do something that would change the issue we have with road safety in Donegal.  They have been affected by the road tragedies – friends, family, community – everyone has been affected, I have been affected. I have had friends and family lost on the roads and everybody knows somebody.  It is a very sensitive issue coming so soon after the funerals of two past pupils so they (the pupils) are aware of it and I believe that sensitivity came across today when we gathered to launch the air freshener.”

Looking ahead, Ms Boyce said: “There will be a different team of young innovators on board next year and they may want to take this a step further.”

Transition class on road safety (ysi) from Scoil Mhuire Buncrana  present a cheque for €2,000 to Edel Lambe from the NRH Foundation.  They raised the money with the sale of their Angel air fresheners  sponsored by Mc Laughlin Auto Factors, Buncrana and Martin Reilly motors, Sligo.  Also in the photo are Ms Boyce  (ysi teacher) ,Mary Hegarty, Elaine Straine  and Ms Grant, School Principal.

The NRH Foundation would like to offer our sincere condolences to the families, staff and pupils of Scoil Mhuire who have lost a loved one to a road traffic accident.  We would also like to say a huge thank you to Scoil Mhuire’s YSI Class for choosing the NRH Foundation as the beneficiary charity for this fantastic and innovative road safety campaign and raising €2,000.  Well Done!  We hope your message spreads to all drivers on the road to keep safe, slow down and help reduce accidents.