Kevin Hanly is a long-time friend of AsIAm and has written for us multiple times. Like many of us, he struggled with the pitfalls of Covid-19 but he’s emerged stronger than ever as part of Supervalu’s latest campaign. Read his story below.
It’s still hard to believe I was selected as a ‘Bring It On’ GAA/SuperValu Ambassador for this year’s football championship just gone, but what an experience it was” From the start I was blown away when SuperValu contacted me with this idea about a national campaign to be a role model for Autism acceptance in the community. They believe that Community includes everyone. They wanted me to help show how it is important for different people from different backgrounds to be included and to highlight the need for more Diversity and Inclusion in society and in GAA. They wanted to show whatever ability you have or differences you might think you have in life, there is always a place for you in your GAA club no matter what.
The GAA is a big factor of my life and without the GAA my social skills wouldn’t have developed to where they are today. I have progressed from a young person with autism and interested in sport, to now helping out with Tipperary GAA from time to time and giving my view on Tipp FM.
In society there is often a misconception, that if you are autistic and low on self-confidence with poor social skills, getting involved in sports might not be the best option for you. I am proof that is not true, I believe that if you have any interest you should go for it. It may be playing or supporting like myself, but I find it doesn’t matter and all that is important is to give it your all. I found people with the same interest and passion as me and have made really good friends from it. I cannot imagine my life now life without Tipperary GAA or Solohead GAA, I would be lost without it.
One thing that always stays with me and drives me on is the Tipperary Football players they have been a huge support to me in my autism journey. They say to me “Kevin you are just one of the lads, you are part of the team, you are part of the furniture, you have been supporting us for over 10 Years through good days and bad, don’t ever forget that.” For over 10 years I have been going to all the matches and many training sessions where I have always felt welcome and included.
Solohead GAA- James Dee & myself. Tipp GAA- Colm O’Shaughnessy & myself.
It’s about their willingness to accept me and include me for who I am and that’s Kevin. Over the last 10 years, my journey to autism acceptance has often been challenging but I can honestly say the GAA has transformed my life and has given me self-belief and confidence. I have come along way with my social skills and learning in life and I will continue on this journey because for me like many autistic people it’s a work in progress.
The last 18 months have been made so much harder with everything that’s gone on from Covid-19. But when SuperValu and AsIAm believing in me and encouraged me to keep up the good work I do around promoting autism awareness, it gave me the lift I needed.
I remember the day of filming in the advertisement up in Dublin, I was so nervous as I was doubting myself if I would actually be able to do it, but the support I got from my parents, family and friends saying “good luck” helped, so when the lights and cameras went on, I did my best acting skills in front of the cameras. I am so delighted with how it all worked out and it was an experience I will never forget!!
The day when we had the launch for the campaign in Croke Park, then it was getting real as the advertisement was going live on National television. I was worried about what people would think but it was a massive success, and everyone involved including the other ambassadors supported and inspired me massively.
As the Covid restrictions began to lift over the summer, I was delighted to be able to get back to helping and supporting Tipperary football as well as being involved with the Tipperary camogie PR team, making videos and helping with social media. I also got to interview David Clifford after the Tipperary versus Kerry championship game and share it on my twitter account which was a great experience for me.
As I look back on the Summer of 2021, my hope is that the ‘Bring It On campaign’ with SuperValu will inspire a new generation to be involved with the GAA. As for me I’m very lucky to have such close bond with the Premier footballers as the lads said to me before ‘They just see me as one of the lads’ I couldn’t have come so far in my autism journey without the support of Tipperary GAA and AsIAm. I am asking you to support them so that they can continue to support people like me to live their best life.
This year wasn’t a successful year for my County of Tipperary but like in life when things don’t go in your favour you just work harder and get more motivated for the next year to see what it will bring…
SuperValu #BringItOn Adam Harris and Kevin Hanly
Watch the interview here: