A Carrickfergus support group is set to hold Northern Ireland’s first ever Learning Disability Pride Day in May.
The event, which is the brainchild of Carrickfergus Senior Gateway Club Leader Thomas Haighton, is aimed at bringing people together to raise awareness of learning disabilites and celebrating the contribution of those who have them to their communities.
The organisers are hoping that thousands of people will turn out to support the festival-style event on May 27, which will include a parade featuring up to 2,000 people with learning disabilites, their carers and support organisations.
“This is a celebration of people with learning disabilites and their contribution to society,” said Thomas.
“I was motivated to create it after attending Disability Pride Day, which I found focused more on people with learning disabilites.
“It’s about raising awareness of learning disabilities and saying ‘we are here.’”
“The event is being hosted by Cool FM’s Pete Snodden and we will also have people with learning disabilities DJing, a parade, information stalls and hopefully enterprise stalls selling goods made by people with learning disabilities.
“We will be sending invitations out to every learning disability charity in Northern Ireland and we are hoping to get up to 2,000 people taking part.”
The event is being supported by Mencap NI and the Big Lottery Fund’s Celebrate programme, which have each pledged £5,000.
Mencap UK has also donated £2000, and the Carrick Club is to hold further fundraising events ahead of the celebration.
“People from learning disability organisations are saying, ‘why have we not done this before?’”? Thomas continued.
“Everyone is excited and wants to get involved, I am suprised at how many people want to come on board and who think it’s a good idea.
“We will be making a DVD which we will take to schools and yough clubs to educate them around learning disabilites, and we hope they will come out and support us on the day.
“We had a competition among learning disability groups to design a logo and a flag, so we will literally be flying the flag for learning disability awareness!”
Several learning disability support organisations have come together to organise the event.
In addition to partner Mencap NI, support will also come from Positive Futures, Caring Breaks, Sense Northern Ireland, Kilcreggan Urban Farm and Lead Counselling.
Thomas is urging people from across Northern Ireland to turn out in force to support what promises to be a fun-filled and informative family day out.
“We hope this will prove to be a great event and we want as many people as possible to come out to take part in the celebrations,” he concluded.
The parade on May 27 will set off from Carrick Health Centre at 12pm and will finish at the car park near Carrick Castle. The festival will run from 12pm-4pm.