When Ann’s daughter, Karen, was diagnosed with Williams Syndrome following 2 ½ years of tests and agonising over what could be the matter with her, instead of dwelling on the negatives Ann decided that she was going to do as much as she could for her daughter and to improve the lot of other families who were affected by this rare condition.
At that time she was told that there were only a couple of children in Ireland with a similar diagnosis but she discovered through researching the subject that the incidence was 1 in 20,000 so she knew that there were many more who either were never diagnosed or lived in ignorance of the fact that there were others in the same boat. She was determined to find out as much as she could about the condition and also that she would reach out to other families who needed help and support.
In 1987 following a year of researching WS, contacting organisations abroad, and informing the media, she succeeded in setting up the Williams Syndrome Association of Ireland (WSAI). Since then she worked tirelessly to better the lives of so many.
WSAI today provides support, advice and assistance to all Irish WS people and their families. Ann has over the years organised conferences, social gatherings, issued a Newsletter, and provided information to the medical and teaching profession about this hitherto little known condition. Ann discovered through her research that people with WS have an unusual musical affinity and 11 years ago she set up the annual Williams Syndrome Music/Activity Camp which turned out to be a huge success and continues each year and is attended by WS people from Ireland and abroad.
Life with a WS child can be very difficult. As well as a learning disability there are several medical problems associated with the condition. Despite her own very hectic life, Ann has devoted the past 25 years to working tirelessly for WSAI; contacting families, raising awareness, fundraising, offering help and support and she has gained the love and respect of all families in Ireland who are affected by WS.
Ann Breen is a true hero and there is no-one more deserving of this award.