Wednesday, July 10, 2019

A CARLOW mum’s positive message that disability doesn’t mean no ability has earned her the title of Woman’s Way and Beko Inspirational Mum of the Year 2019.

Rhona Cullinan (46) from Sandhills, Hacketstown Road, Carlow was announced among the winners at a special lunch at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Dublin last week. The busy mum of three is a dedicated campaigner and advocate for both Down Syndrome and autism, inspired by her wonderful children Jamie (15), Joshua (4) and Molly (2).

“I’m thrilled … and very shocked,” she told The Nationalist yesterday (Monday).

Following the arrival of Joshua, who was diagnosed with autism at 18 months’ old, and Molly, who was born with Down Syndrome and a heart defect, Rhona was inspired to blog about their lives by setting up a Facebook page and an Instagram account called ‘Molly and Joshua’. On these platforms, Rhona connects with other parents and talks about what it’s like being a parent of children with disabilities.

Mum of the Year Rhona Cullinan pictured in the Delta Centre Sensory Gardens in Carlow
Photo: michaelorourkephotography.ie

“I’ve had other people inspire me, so it’s nice to give back and I want to be that person who can inspire other people to think life is not as bad as you think it’s going to be,” said Rhona.

“I want to show people that Down Syndrome isn’t a bad thing; it isn’t all negative. I love Molly having Down Syndrome, and with Joshua it’s just that it’s a little bit harder to get into his world,” she adds positively.

“I want to show people that disability doesn’t mean no ability,” said Rhona. “Molly and Joshua interact with each other so well and help each other so much,”

Rhona is a well-known make-up artist and as part of her campaigning has also worked alongside the Marie Keating Foundation to create a make-up book and has volunteered for the Look Good, Feel Good Foundation and Ronald McDonald House.

“I’ve also just become a celebrant,” Rhona adds.

“I’d be lying if I said things were difficult at times, but my children inspire me. Four years ago, I knew absolutely nothing about autism or Down Syndrome, so it’s been a journey for me, too,” she says.

Rhona thanked her sister Frances Cullinan and best friend Jennifer Madden for nominating her for the Woman’s Way and Beko Mum of the Year Awards.

The awards showcase and celebrate the evolving role of Irish mothers, highlighting their contribution across all facets of society.

“The true heroes of our society are the mums who hold family and community together, who care for their loved ones, old and young, despite the enormous obstacles life throws at them,” said Norah Casey, chair of the judging panel.

“The backbone of modern Ireland is the warrior mums who keep it all together and show the way for others to follow.”

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By Suzanne Pender
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