RTÉ has made a dream come true for an autistic boy from Goleen.
David O’Regan (18) had developed something of a fixation with all things Den, having received a themed gift pack from his mother for his Confirmation.
But it was the Soky character from the after-school kids’ programme that he really wanted, so his teacher at Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí, Laura O’Sullivan, decided to write to West Cork woman, Dee Forbes, the director general of RTÉ, after meeting her the school’s award ceremony last year.
Dee, who had presented David with an award, remembered him well, having listened to a citation outlining just how far he has come socially and behaviourally.
Dee went on a search for the Soky puppet, but within the week she had to admit defeat, and wrote back to Laura saying she had no luck in finding the elusive puppet.
Dee had even contacted the puppeteer, Joey Morrison. He too had joined the search, but there didn’t seem to be any in existence.
It was Joey who came up with the idea of getting the real Soky to record a video greeting for David.
David was surprised and thrilled – and his mother, Clare O’Regan, was ‘over the moon’ – when the message arrived via WhatsApp in time for Christmas.
Sean O’Briain, who works in TV programming in RTÉ, and had worked on the original Den with Dustin and Soky, even went to the trouble of contacting the school so they could make the message from Soky even more personal.
His teacher, Laura O’Sullivan, said: ‘Sean asked us a few questions about David and later that evening – December 21st –he and Joey Morrison recorded the message and sent it on to David’s mam so she would have something related to Soky to give to David for Christmas.
‘We were really touched by the efforts Dee, Joey and Sean went to,’ said Laura, ‘but we got an even greater surprise on January 22nd when we got another email saying that Dee Forbes had got someone to contact the manufacturer of the originally Soky and they – after conducting a major search of their premises – found one in the attic.
‘This was beyond all our expectations. It really warmed our hearts,’ said Laura, ‘especially at a time when there is so much bad news.’
Soky arrived the week before mid-term – on Wednesday, February 7th – and David was thrilled. He has, in fact, brought Soky to school with him every day since.
‘We hear a lot of negative things: people can even be negative about RTÉ,’ said Laura, ‘so we wanted to highlight how kind and thoughtful they were in making David’s dream come true.’
David’s mother, Clare, told the Southern Star: ‘It was something that David had got into his head that he wanted: it was really important to him and RTE was absolutely fantastic, Laura too. They all went above and beyond the call of duty. I’d like to thank them all for their extraordinary kindness.’