A Wishaw flute band is helping a local teenager realise his dream of competing at next year’s Special Olympics.

16 year old Ronan Foley, who is autistic and has learning difficulties, was discovered to have a particular talent for swimming. The Clyde Valley Beavers Swimming Club not only honed his swimming ability (he became Scottish Champion for breaststroke at last November’s Schools Championships) it has also helped him gain confidence, develop his social skills and make new friends. Now Ronan has been selected to represent Scotland West at the Special Olympics National Summer Games next August.

But such opportunities come at a price, and Scotland West has the daunting task of raising £200,000 to cover team costs. That’s when the members of the County Flute Band, who practise in Wishaw Orange Hall, stepped in and offered to pay for Ronan’s travel expenses, hotel and kit costs – and he didn’t even have to take off his Celtic shirt!

“Everyone knows Ronan” said Jim Scott from the band. “He’s a good laddie and gets on with everyone, so it was a no brainer for us. We hope he comes back from the Games with medals and we can say we helped. It’s all about helping the community.” The band has already made an initial donation of £100 and intends to raise most of the remainder by holding a dinner dance in the Orange Hall later this year.

Ronan’s mum, Katie, is overjoyed by the band’s gesture. “Everybody knows Ronan is a Catholic boy, so we were absolutely delighted and overwhelmed when the County Flute Band asked if they could sponsor him to go to the Olympics. We were very touched about it and it is mind blowing. The fact that Ronan is a Celtic fan doesn’t matter to these guys.” Of her talented son, she added: “I am very proud of Ronan. He has achieved something that no-one thought he would achieve.”

Mrs Foley intends to write to the local Orange leadership, thanking the band for what they are doing: “I think it is only right and proper that the Orange Order knows what their members have done.”