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Miss NI finalist Roná Mallon moving mountains for charity

Teacher taking on the 30km Mourne Wall challenge to raise funds for incredABLE organisation close to her heart

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Miss NI finalist Roná Mallon outside the hub

Miss NI finalist Roná Mallon outside the hub

Roná was gifted with an incredABLE-y made T-Shirt

Roná was gifted with an incredABLE-y made T-Shirt

Roná with the incredABLE-y made team

Roná with the incredABLE-y made team

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Miss NI finalist Roná Mallon outside the hub

A Miss Northern Ireland finalist is set to take on a mountainous challenge to raise funds for a charity close to her heart.

Tyrone’s Roná Mallon (23) aims to complete the tough 30km Mourne Wall hike to raise funds for incredABLE, a charity which creates employment opportunities for young adults with autism and learning disabilities.

Roná, who teaches in both Lisanally Special School in Armagh and Brookfield in Moira, is one of 24 local beauty queens in the running for the Miss Northern Ireland 2022 crown on May 23.

However, one week before stepping on stage at the glittering final in Belfast, she will be taking to the hills to complete her mammoth charity challenge on May 14.

She explains: “I came across the amazing work of incredABLE last summer and have wanted to do something to support them ever since.

“Getting through to the Miss Northern Ireland final has given me an opportunity to finally organise a fundraiser and hopefully also raise awareness of the charity.”

Rona has been teaching for just over a year but is passionate about her work with special needs children.

If she walks away with the Miss NI crown, she aims to use the title to give a “voice” to young people with special needs.

She says: “I think having the Miss NI crown gives you a massive voice and a massive platform. I know things that need to be talked about more and I would like to be that voice for people with special needs.

“I do worry about what is out there for special needs children transitioning from school into adulthood. It is heartbreaking to know when they leave school there is no support and that work is so hard for them to get.

“It’s fantastic that they have a charity like incredABLE to give them a job and responsibility and allow them to flourish but we need more charities like that.

“I do worry that not enough is being done and we need to do better for people who are among the most vulnerable in our society.”

Rona, who is single and loves the great outdoors, has been practising for her big challenge in the Mournes and so far, has managed to cover 23 of the 30km in just six hours.

She adds: “I’m very competitive and I will be aiming to complete the hike as quickly as I can, hopefully in one day.

“I like the idea that as a special needs teacher who works with children who face physical difficulties every day that this is going to be a physical challenge for me, so it’s kind of symbolic.”

IncredABLE has a number of restaurants employing special needs adults.

It has also recently launched a new social enterprise venture — incredABLE-y made — giving young people transferable job skills in the print, production and packaging of bespoke chocolate products.

Established with the support of National Lottery Community fund in 2017, the enterprise also provides day opportunities for school leavers.

Alannah Heslip from the charity says: “All of the team will be supporting Roná and the trainees were simply delighted to hand over some specially customised Miss Northern Ireland Belgian chocolate lollies to her.

“All our incredABLE trainees are involved in every aspect of daily operations from brand merchandising and design, to production, packaging, marketing and sales.

“Adopting this co-design approach ensures our incredABLE trainees move on with enhanced confidence, motivation and self-esteem, as well as with a portfolio of skills-based assessment.

“We all really want to see incredABLE-Y made grow and expand this area of vital provision.”

To support Roná’s incredABLE challenge you can donate via: https://gofund.me/c0952534 and to find out more about the charity go to www.incredable.org.uk or visit @incredABLE-y made


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