TOYP 2018 Winners

11 Nov 2018 Admin Manager By Admin Manager

PRESS RELEASE – For immediate release

Who have been crowned Ireland’s Ten Outstanding Young People for 2018?

On Saturday evening (11.05.2018) at the JCI Ireland TOYP Awards, in association with AIB, ten phenomenal people were recognised as Ireland’s most outstanding for 2018. The ten winners crowned at the event were as follows:

  • Renuka Chintapalli, Co. Dublin - Medical innovation

Renuka is an avid young scientist with a great passion for medical research. Over the past five years, she has carried out two award-winning cancer research projects, one of which has been published in the ‘International Journal of Nutrition and Cancer’, and the other has been shortlisted as one of the top 100 finalists of the Google Science Fair. Her latest project has focused on using bioinformatics and advanced laboratory techniques to identify potential protein-based biomarkers for oesophageal cancer metastasis. This work has yielded very positive results, culminating with the finding of two novel viable targets that may be inhibited to prevent the metastasis of cancer. Having featured in RTÉ’s ‘Making Ireland Click’ and having addressed worldwide audiences at conferences such as the ‘Royal Society of Medicine’s Medical Innovation Fair’, she hopes that she has spread the message that engaging in science knows no bounds.

  • Izzy Keane, Co. Galway - Personal improvement and/or accomplishment

Izzy Keane is the Brand Ambassador of Izzy Wheels which she co-founded with her sister, Ailbhe, in 2016. Izzy Wheels provide a range of stylish wheel covers for wheelchairs which allow users to express their individuality and personality. They collaborate with top designers from around the world to create beautiful unique designs that transform a medical device into a piece of fashion and self-expression. Their motto – “If you can't stand up, stand out”! They have grown the company from college project into a global brand. Their work has been showcased in some of the world top publications including Vogue, Instagram Official, Forbes, Tech Crunch and Adobe. Izzy was the youngest person to be named on the 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30. She is on a mission to break down society’s negative associations with disabilities and shine a positive light on inclusive design.

  • Joy Neville, Co. Limerick - Cultural achievement

Joy Neville is a former Ireland women’s rugby international captain and current rugby international referee. As a player Joy represented Ireland both at the 2006 and 2010 Women's Rugby World Cups. In 2013 she was a member of the Ireland team to win both the Women's Six Nations Championship and a Grand Slam. Since taking up refereeing in the male dominated sport she was named World Rugby Referee of the Year in 2017. She has been inspirational to many women in different fields and was therefore awarded a 2018 People of the Year Award.

  • Deborah Somorin, Co. Dublin - Humanitarian and/or voluntary leadership

Deborah is a Senior Associate at PwC and a qualified chartered accountant who recently began sharing her story of becoming homeless at just 13 to help change the stigma attached with youth homelessness. She has recently founded Empower the Family, a not for profit company, which will open student accommodation with affordable quality childcare for lone parents between 18-23 in third level education. Deborah is also a board member on the board of directors for Chartered Accountants Support which supports members and students of Chartered Accountants Ireland.

  • Johnny Loughrey, Co. Donegal - Business, economic, and/or entrepreneurial accomplishment

Johnny, having spent some time in Australia developing a forward-thinking approach to rehabilitation, established JT Physiotherapy Ltd in 2013 in Ireland. He also established the No Barriers Foundation in 2016 which aims to break down barriers allowing those with varying levels of mobility, disabilities or chronic long-term illness to exercise within their community, to improve health and to decrease the risk of comorbidities. The Foundation managed to acquire funding for a revolutionary piece of equipment called an Ekso Bionics Exoskeleton which allows those with spinal injury, traumatic brain injury or those who have suffered a stroke to walk and rehabilitate while wearing the robotic suit.

  • Geraldine Lavelle, Co. Mayo - Personal improvement and/or accomplishment

Geraldine Lavelle, who is living with a C6 spinal cord injury, has developed an online peer-to-peer platform to disseminate educational webinars and training tools that empower and educate individuals with physical disabilities (as well as their families and the wider community) about the importance of physical activity for overall promotion of positive health and wellbeing. She has inspired many to live a wonderful life.

  • Emma Fogarty, Co. Laois - Humanitarian and/or voluntary leadership

Emma was born with Recessive Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa which means her skin is as fragile as the wings of a butterfly. At that stage one doctor told her parents, “She won’t last a week and it would be better off if she didn’t”. Against all the odds she has lived life to the fullest and is the oldest person living with EB in Ireland. She has become a Patient Ambassador for DEBRA Ireland so that she can raise awareness for the condition along with giving inspiration and hope to other people who have it.

  • Ben Walsh, Co. Mayo - Personal improvement and/or accomplishment

Ben Walsh is a person who, despite his young age, has an astounding number of achievements in cycling. He won the Junior Tour of Ireland in 2017 and was crowned both Junior National Time Trial Champion and Junior National Track Pursuit Champion in the same year. He also represented Ireland in the 2017 World Road and TT Championships. Ben is definitely one to watch for the future where he has recently signed for Vitus Pro Cycling in the UK.

  • Eliona Gjecaj, Co. Galway - Humanitarian and/or voluntary leadership

Eliona established the IMPACTE (Inclusion & Motivation for Promoting Access to Community Transformation & Engagement) society for NUIG students with disabilities and different medical conditions. She ensured that a new position of Disability Officer in the Students Union was achieved through the society. The society hosts a range of inclusive events for students and staff with disabilities. She was also appointed Chairperson of the Galway Visually Impaired Activity Club in 2016.

  • Avril Hannifin, Co. Dublin - Personal improvement and/or accomplishment

Avril is a vibrant and energetic woman and mother who, despite encountering many obstacles and struggles, is employed as a ‘Digital Pathways Educator’ with An Cosan and is a Director and Secretary on the SEDCo (Social Enterprise Development Company) Board of Management. She did not give up, she persevered and she hopes that in sharing her story that other people who struggle may realise that they too can transform their situation.

The runners-up were Oisin Carroll, Uzair Qureshi, Sarah Gillespie, Dr. Brendan Boland, Nicole Ryan, Sandra Ganley, Thomas Horscraft, Caitlin Nic Aoidh, Bradley Brock and Kathi (Fatti) Burke.

The TOYP Awards serve to formally recognise young people who excel in their chosen fields and create positive change. The honorees, in turn, motivate their peers to seek excellence and serve others. Their stories of discovery, determination and ingenuity inspire young people to be better leaders and create better societies. The competition now moves onto the international level where the world’s ten outstanding young people will be crowned in India in November.

Speaking at the awards ceremony JCI Ireland President, Laura Enache, said: “The TOYP honorees are transformational leaders who have made a huge contribution to our society. They have identified a need in the community and have acted upon it. They have identified the passion in themselves to serve other people and change the world for the better. They are a true inspiration”.

On the night Ronan Neacy, JCI Ireland Director of Community, said: “The honourees have inspired us to not only do better for ourselves but to do better for our communities, our cities and our country”.

Jim Kent, on behalf of national sponsor AIB, mentioned: “JCI is a wonderful organisation and the TOYP Awards are truly something special”.

The awards ceremony was hosted at the stunning Mount Falcon Estate on the banks of the renowned River Moy in Ballina, Co. Mayo. The MC on the evening was Harry McCann who was a world TOYP winner in 2017 for his achievements as a technology entrepreneur.

A raffle was held on the night in aid of the Darkness Into Light charity walk, Pieta House’s flagship annual fundraising and awareness event, which had taken place that morning throughout the country.


Contact Information:

Name: Ronan Neacy


Phone: 0871274699

Notes to Editor:

About JCI

JCI Ireland is part of the largest personal and leadership development organisation for young people in the world - Junior Chamber International.

It provides a range of activities and projects in four opportunity areas: Individual, Community, International and Business.

JCI Ireland runs activities throughout the year, including the Ten Outstanding Young Persons Awards, Friendly Business Awards and Active Citizenship Week. For further information please see -