Press Release – Marks & Spencer


August 2016






Initiative being led by M&S Cork Store Manager & Chairman of DS Cork, Ray O’Callaghan

Marks & Spencer is delighted to announce its initial three year sponsorship of ‘Field of Dreams’, a ground-breaking new project which has been launched to support adults with Down Syndrome in Cork.  The first of its kind in Ireland, the project is designed to provide education, training and rewarding work opportunities for adults with Down Syndrome in a safe, secure and inspirational environment.

‘Field of Dreams’ will be located on a three acre site in Curraheen, Cork.  With planning permission now granted, the care farm will comprise of sensory gardens, a market garden for the cultivation of fruit, vegetable and farm produce, as well as prefabs where education initiatives can be rolled out for young adults with special needs.  Award winning Irish garden designer, Diarmuid Gavin is currently working on designs for the garden with work due to begin later this month, June 2016.

Commenting on the sponsorship, M&S Head of Ireland Alison Grainger said, “We encourage all our stores to support their local community and our colleagues do a brilliant job of getting involved and making a real difference, but Ray has really raised the bar with his work for Down Syndrome Cork. Ray is passionate about everything he undertakes on behalf of the charity and has been the main driver in bringing the Field of Dreams project to life.  He has also been a real inspiration to his team in the Cork store, with many of them planning to volunteer with the project, and we are really pleased to support a charity our colleagues are so excited to be involved with.”

Ray O’Callaghan, M&S Cork Store Manager and Chairman of DS Cork said: “For a number of years we have been increasingly aware of the limited choice facing young adults with Down Syndrome as they leave child services.  We brainstormed options for providing meaningful work, skill acquisition, room for personal development, inclusion and ownership. We placed weight on the opinion of the young adults living with Down syndrome and we came up with the ‘Care Farm’ concept, one which has proven its merit internationally. The ‘Field of Dreams’ seed germinated and we are now building a horticulture education and work project. The participants will be people who want to make a positive contribution to our community.”

He continued:  “We are delighted to have M&S on board as our first corporate sponsor and we are encouraging other businesses to follow suit and support us in making our Field of Dreams a reality.”

Marks & Spencer has previously worked with Down Syndrome Ireland, fundraising for the charity as part of its annual Back to School activity.


Further information:

Ciara O’Connell or Aimee O’Driscoll at Wilson Hartnell, (01) 669 0030

ciara.o’ | aimee.o’



About Plan A

Plan A is M&S’s sustainable business plan that tackles both today’s and tomorrow’s sustainable retail challenges.  Launched in 2007, the plan is focused on customer, employee and supplier engagement and includes commitments that tackle issues such as climate change, waste, raw materials, health and being a fair partner.

About Down Syndrome Cork

Down Syndrome Cork is the Cork branch of the national organisation, Down Syndrome Ireland. In Cork, there are over 360 member families across the city and county.  The main aims as a branch are to provide support and resources; to encourage active participation in the community; to foster positive attitudes; and most importantly to help individuals with Down Syndrome reach their full potential.  The majority of work done at branch level is done by parents on a voluntary capacity. Support is necessary for anyone born with Down Syndrome from birth throughout life.

Our Dream has a strong Cork Foundation


Down Syndrome Cork Board members have a dream, a Field of Dreams, that our adult members with Down syndrome will have increased opportunities for meaningful work. Since the idea germinated a couple of years ago we have received support for our Dream from many and varied people and agencies in Cork, Ireland and beyond. One such agency is Cork Foundation and its CEO Padraic Vallely. Cork Foundation has taken our project into the stableyard of Cork initiatives which they support and it is a partnership which we truly welcome.

The Cork Foundation is a unique social enterprise fund, fueled by donations from Cork people at home and abroad who want to support social entrepreneurs in need of funding to bring about positive social change in Cork city and county. In a time of justifiable public scepticism of charitable organisations, we feel that working together helps to rebuild and maintain the public confidence that the majority of Cork charities deserve.

Cork Foundation

Recently we were invited by Padraic to address the Cork Association of New York. This is an active and interested group of first and second generation Cork people living in New York who visit Cork biennially,  They make a positive contribution in a variety of ways to the place they call home.

We were delighted and wanted to send a little part of our dream back to New York. We organised a ceramic workshop where volunteers with and without Down syndrome came to make plant markers. In the clay we stamped leaves picked from the hedgerows of our Field and the words “Irish dreams grow here”. We really enjoyed making them and love how they turned out.  Each one is unique, some use ‘creative’ spelling of the words and each one is beautiful. Most of all we love the thought that just as seeds disperse on a gentle breeze, these plant pot stakes are dispersing into the wider Cork diaspora and bring a little piece of our hope and confidence with them.

We were delighted with the opportunity to meet a delegate from the Cork NY Association and are very grateful for the fundraising donation resulting from the raffle at the Cork / NY Ball. 

Thank you New York and most of all thank you Cork Foundation. May our partnership grow in mutual benefit

.Cork FoundationCork Foundation

The Field of Dreams by John Sweetnam

John SweetnamJohn Sweetnam writes about what working outdoors in a garden setting will mean to him and other adults with Down syndrome in the Cork region when Field of Dreams is operational. John is a Board member of Down Syndrome Cork and has been a strong supporter of Field of Dreams from the first stages of it’s planning. 

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