A MUM whose love of fitness helped her cope with the loss of her little girl has helped to create an innovative new app to promote exercise and wellness for children with additional needs.
Sinead Lynch, a personal trainer from Derry city, was left devastated when her seven-year-old daughter Ruby, who had Down's syndrome, died two-and-a-half years ago.
Ruby had suffered from epilepsy and seizures throughout her short life but her death came as a huge shock to Sinead, husband Paul and Ruby's older sister Anna.
A PT for 20 years, Sinead found solace in regular exercise. It helped improve her mental health at such a heartbreaking time and gave her something positive to focus on.
So when she took part in the first North West Co-Founders Programme for start-up businesses, she wanted to create something fitness-related which would be a legacy for her daughter.
"I had been training people for a long time and realised I never saw any PTs working with people with additional needs," says Sinead.
"People would've come to me in the past or parents of children with special needs and I would've worked with them.
"But through my role as full-time carer to Ruby, I could see that there were no real facilities and access to proper exercise and fitness programmes for children and adults with additional needs. That got me thinking. I wanted to do something to change that."
Not long after Ruby's death, Sinead was approached by Bronagh McNamara of Foyle Down Syndrome Trust, who asked her to set up specialised fitness classes.
The pair contacted Derry learning disability group Destined and group fitness classes were held there that were well attended. "Everyone enjoyed the classes and we enjoyed doing them too," says Sinead.
"We started thinking that we'd love for other people to be able to access this and not just in Derry."
Sinead and Paul had previously lived in Wicklow for 18 years, moving back to Derry five years ago, but finding wellness facilities for Ruby back then meant a trip into Dublin. An app that was accessible to everyone and that could help children and adults with additional needs strengthen muscles in their legs and core came to mind.
So when Sinead and Bronagh heard about the Co-Founders Programme, based at Catalyst Innovation Centre at Fort George, they went along.
The women teamed up with software specialist Jason McDevitt and completed a part-time online programme one night a week for 16 weeks.
Ruby's Fitness App was one of just five start-ups to be granted £10,000 of Innovate UK funding to produce a prototype.
"We were absolutely thrilled when we found out that we'd got the funding," says Sinead.
"It meant so much to me.
"We are in the process of designing the new app which is going to be tested by Ardnashee School, which Ruby attended. We are all very excited about that.
"When I lost Ruby, it was exercise that got me through and it's great to know that so many children and adults with additional needs are going to benefit from this app.
"Ruby taught me so much more than she learned from me. She was the gentlest, most loving, unassuming little girl you could ever wish to meet and to have Ruby's Fitness App as her legacy means something good came out of an awful situation and that through the app, she will be helping other children."