Kathleen McGuinness has been awarded Specsavers Grandparent of the Year 2018 for her outstanding support, care and devotion to her autistic grandchild Anthony Bissett.
As well as being a doting grandmother to her 11-year-old grandson Anthony, Kathleen is also a great-grandmother and provides unwavering support to the whole family. The 82-year-old understands her autistic grandson like nobody else does and both consider each other best friends. She plays a vital role in his development, helps to keep him calm and provides guidance daily.
Kathleen was delighted to be joined at the award presentation by Anthony and was overwhelmed by his winning entry, detailing their especially close relationship and her unwavering commitment to caring for him.
‘I’m thrilled to be named Grandparent of the Year,’ she says. ‘It’s such an honour and so touching to know that my grandchild is proud of my story and that he cherishes our relationship. I am so proud of Anthony for his winning entry, I love him so much.’
The winning entry
In Anthony’s winning entry, we learn about the special bond they share. For example, she gently covers his ears with her scarf when they are out shopping as she knows that loud noise can upset Anthony. She always listens and is entertained by his lively stories. On top of this, she is Anthony’s minder three days a week, where she cooks and spoils him with his favourite food. She continues to make a weekly effort to gather the family and host a Sunday meal for everyone.
Anthony’s mum, Ciara Bisset says: ‘The way they interact with one another is just amazing – she is the apple of his eye. They both care and look after each other. It was Anthony who encouraged Kathleen to get her hearing tested. He thought she was suffering from hearing loss as he had to shout more for her to hear him. Anthony and I with my husband and daughter go to Kathleen’s for dinner every Sunday. It’s Anthony’s favourite time of the week.’
Chairperson of Specsavers Ireland, Kerril Hickey says: ‘Congratulations to Kathleen on this much-deserved achievement and to her grandson Anthony for such a fantastic entry which we were truly moved by. We are really looking forward to helping Kathleen with her hearing.’
The Grandparent of the Year campaign
The Grandparent of the Year campaign was launched in October by Specsavers in association with Beaumont Hospital to recognise the benefits of an ageing population and highlight the important role grandparents play in families and local communities. Grandchildren of all ages were asked to nominate their grandparents with a written entry on why they deserved the title.