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About Soar

Soar is a collective movement which believes that there is greatness within all young people. We act on this by creating and delivering early intervention-preventative, wellness workshops inside the school system for young people aged 12 to 18 years from all backgrounds.

Soar from Soar on Vimeo.

What is Soar?

Our workshops empower young people to thrive, believe in themselves and fulfil their true potential. Within a safe and supportive environment, they are given the opportunity to be themselves and explore any challenges that hold them back from doing so.

The workshops are centred on the belief that we are all on our own private heroic journey. We focus on the ordinary becoming extraordinary by encouraging open and authentic discussions between young people to increase self-confidence, awareness and self-belief, promote empathy and peer respect, increase resiliency and recognise core strengths and passions.

Soar programs begin by developing an awareness of what influences us and stops us all from being free to be who we want to be. We use examples from popular culture such as; films, books, videos and people that are interesting and age relevant to shape this discussion and build a connection with young people. We stay well away from all of the usual clichés and never tell young people what to do, say or feel. We encourage young people to express themselves authentically and we create an atmosphere that is safe for them to do so.

By empowering each young person to take ownership of their lives and exploring what is important to them, Soar is igniting a major shift in attitude amongst young people all around Ireland.

The Big Picture



In late 2010, upon seeing the documentary 'Every Heart Beats True: The Jim Stynes Story' two Irish men, Tony Griffin and Karl Swan, agreed that the REACH Foundation in Melbourne, Australia, delivered programs that would be of great assistance to young people in Ireland.

They travelled to Melbourne, slept on couches and in cars and without an invitation finally plucked up the courage to walk in to REACH's offices. Tony and Karl received great support from REACH and in December 2011 set up Soar.

Soar has since gone on to win the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Impact Award in 2012 as well as the Captain Cathal Ryan Social Enterprise Research Bursary. Co-founder Tony Griffin also received the Vodafone World of Difference award in 2013. 

Soar has worked with thousands of young people in schools all over Ireland to a unanimous response. Soar is now led by a high performing Board of Directors and a tribe of wildly enthusiastic staff, facilitators and volunteers who care deeply about our young people. 

We would like to pay a special tribute to Jim Stynes and the Reach Foundation for inspiring Soar. To find out more about Reach check out their website at

Our People

Soar is made up of people from all walks of life.
Mavericks, dreamers and doers.

Our Staff — Tony Griffin

Tony grew up in Clare and attended NUI Galway and did a BA in Economics and English and then a BSc in Human Kinetics at Dalhousie University, Canada. 

All the while his dream was to play Senior Hurling for Clare. This dream came true from 2000 to 2010. During that time his father died and motivated by this Tony cycled a bicycle 7000kms across Canada to both raise funds for various cancer related causes and explore life and his grief. This journey raised over €1million for different good causes and showed him that the most rewarding path is to make a difference in another person's life. It also proved to Tony that dreams absolutely do come true. 

Currently Tony fulfils the role of CEO which includes many things. Mostly it means providing leadership, direction and ensuring the programs we run are funded and make an impact in young people’s lives that will be felt for generations to come. Tony’s favourite part of his job is running the programs and seeing the breakthroughs in our amazing young people. 

In Tony's own words "I co-founded Soar because of Love. I love people and I love potential being fulfilled. It intrigues me and excites me. And I think in some ways I want young people to have the self-belief and confidence I didn't have as a teenager. Soar is for me because it is for mavericks, dreamers and doers and I can't imagine doing anything else right now in my life. I feel so fortunate to get to be part of something so special. It's not always easy but I love Soar and the young people we serve."

Tony Griffin

Our Staff — Sinéad Shannon

Sinéad Shannon is originally from West Clare but has spent the last couple of years doing her BA & MA in Dublin, Stockholm & Galway. In her free time she likes to explore new places with cool people, learn new languages, and has recently gotten into a little bit of running.

Sinéad deals with Research, Finance and Logistics at Soar. She is responsible for the Soar schedule, managing the financial accounts, and overseeing research at Soar. 

Following a chance meeting with Tony (Co-founder/CEO), she was offered an opportunity to complete her MA work placement at Soar. The plan was six weeks but life had other intentions for Sinéad…

In Sinead’s own words “Soar has taught me the value of living in the moment and being in touch with my heart. I wish I had Soar when I was younger, but I am glad to be of service to Soar in reaching Irelands youth.”

Sinéad Shannon

Our Staff — Ciara Quinn

Ciara is from Dublin and her background is in online administration. Alongside Soar she is also studying part-time to become a primary school teacher.

Ciara’s role in Soar involves looking after Soar’s web presence, social media channels and supporting the marketing and events functions of Soar. 

Ciara was introduced to Soar through her former employer and Soar Founding Partner Stelfox IT Recruitment in 2012. Like many people who come across Soar it spoke to Ciara straight away and she knew she wanted to be involved in whatever capacity she could. 

In Ciara’s own words “I love being a part of Soar because, really simply, I’ve seen first-hand the difference in young people when they can recognise their own unique brilliance. Seeing how powerful this can be, I can’t imagine not wanting to be involved!”

Ciara Quinn

Our Staff — Mark McDonnell

Mark is 33 and from Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. Mark is a middle child (what does that mean?) in a family of five, and recent godfather to the beautiful, brand spanking new Freya. He recently completed an MA in Management: Community & Voluntary Organisations. Before that Mark worked in commercial property and pharmaceutical sales. At his happiest he is either being active, in nature, exploring new places, connecting with people, drinking too much coffee with a book or spending quality down time with people he loves.

Mark is the Operations Manager with Soar. Mark’s role can range from financial analysis, planning events, fund generation, liaising with supporters and partners and everything in between. Mark firmly believes he is here to serve both the young people we engage with, and our small but dynamic team at Soar. Mark implements operational flows to reach our desired strategy, goals, culture, identity and values. 

In Mark’s own words “I think Soar and I are soul mates, we found each other! Since I can remember I have felt an inexplicable empathy with young people, but had never landed on how to harness it. Many occurrences which could not be ignored led me to Soar’s door. Once I had an understanding of the work, I had no doubt this is where I was meant to be. I contacted Tony and Karl, got involved, wouldn’t go away…and the rest is history! Nothing excites me more that people realising their potential, especially young people. I love the approach of simply facilitating young people to awaken their own power, wisdom and greatness. We don’t have a magic wand or provide them with ‘answers’, we simply create spaces where young people can be authentic with each other. Young people coming alive in these spaces, and seeing their future as their own brings immense satisfaction for me.”

Mark McDonnell

Our Staff — Karl Swan

Karl is from Dublin and was inspired by Jim Stynes to co-found Soar in 2011. 

He is really proud of what Soar has achieved to date considering we have only begun!

When Karl is not working with Soar, he can be found at his boys’ matches or belting around the Phoenix Park trying to keep the inevitable at bay.   

Karl Swan

Our Board — Introduction

We at Soar regard ourselves to be incredibly fortunate to have attracted such a talented and beautiful bunch of people to our board. They have emerged as real leaders in their chosen fields, and have a track record of success in the business and community sectors. While the board comprises of many different personalities and perspectives, they all share the same passion for the young people of our country. The board governs all aspects of the organisation from advocacy, fundraising, welfare and strategic direction with the primary focus on what will benefit the young people we are trying to reach.  

What we are trying to achieve with Soar has resonated with this group of exceptional people, and we thank them for listening to their hearts and being a part of where we are today. Soar will always strive to work with independently minded, conscientious and talented people when governing and shaping the organisation.

Our board consists of Pat Cusack, Susan McGovern, Liam Laffey, Pat Moran, Clíona Diggins and Darren Ryan. Check out some of their bios on the right.


Our Board — Pat Cusack / Chairperson

Patrick Cusack is another man from County Clare (from Kilrush), who has worked in the IT industry in the Dublin area since 1990. 

Pat is married with two kids and is passionate about the youth of this country and the potential they have if they can be raised and listened to as confident young people, trusted to drive real change.

Having communicated with Tony during his cross Canada cycle (Pat also had lost a parent in 2002), he met Tony again in 2012 and gradually got to hear about what Soar was committed to delivering. Before he knew it, he found himself on the Board!

Pat’s role within the Board is to offer some grey haired grey matter (since Karl has none) and also use his industry network to facilitate the growth of Soar. Additionally his IT experience comes in useful.

In Pat’s words “Soar represents a 21st century approach to our youth who have not been well served by our institutions. They need to have confidence in themselves and feel empowered to drive real change. They can create a powerful and passionate revival of this great little island called Ireland!”

Pat Cusack

Our Board — Susan McGovern / Secretary

Susan McGovern is a working mom of two energetic girls. She is a passionate talker and communicator, a lover of facilitating and understanding people interactions in both business and life in general.

Susan’s background is Business and Psychology and she has vast human resources experience in leading financial services organisations in Ireland, UK and Australia with a particular interest in driving cultural and behavioural change. She is also a qualified Coach and currently heads up the Organisational Development team at Certus. Her expertise and energy comes from creating and encouraging environments to drive high performance, with a focus on talent management, leadership development and coaching.

Soar’s goals align beautifully with both Susan’s professional work and personal & family passions. Susan is passionate about Soar’s proactive, early intervention and empathetic approach to the well-being of our youth, facilitating an environment ripe for all to thrive in. Soar’s essence is about helping young people to believe in themselves, tap into their inner-wisdom and be their best, to maximise the opportunity of life while staying true to oneself - something that she thinks all of us need guidance with.

Susan was instantly attracted to Soar, became involved early in its foundation, and is so delighted to be a part of the team. At present she is Secretary on Soar’s Advisory Board. She also supports the team on organisational design and development, and building, integrating and maintaining a positively authentic culture.

In Susan’s own words, “Soar is building an amazing future for the youth of Ireland, making this country a phenomenally better place for my daughters to grow up and thrive in!”

Susan McGovern

Our Board — Clíona Diggins

Clíona Diggins is a business psychologist working with organisations internationally in the areas of Leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team development. Clíona set up Psyched in 2009 to specialise in this and is passionate about helping people to excel and achieve their potential. This interest in people, performance and psychology stems from years spent representing Ireland at swimming and seeing the power of setting our own inspiring goals.

Clíona became involved with Soar very early in the journey and is excited to be part of the team and the opportunity to help young people in Ireland to thrive and reach their true potential. As part of the Advisory Board she is particularly interested in supporting Soar to be the best organisation, team, and facilitator group it can be.

When she is not with Soar or Psyched Clíona can usually be found in Dublin playgrounds with her two young daughters in search of the next best slide.

Clíona Diggins

Our Board — Darren Ryan

Darren is the Chief Executive at Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. He has worked there for the past five years and his passion is using entrepreneurship to address some of Ireland’s biggest social challenges.

Darren first met Tony and Karl from Soar when they became Impact Award Winners with Social Entrepreneurs Ireland in 2012. In Darren’s words “Soar was very early in its development at that point, but we could see the huge potential that it had and were delighted to be able to support them. It was the right idea at the right time, and it was being driven by two exceptional individuals.”

Darren joined the board in 2014 and hopes that his experience in the social enterprise space will help the team in Soar to develop a sustainable organisation that will continue to have an impact for many years to come.

Darren Ryan


Young people hear from adults all day every day, however adults don't have it all figured out and young people know this. Soar recruits potential facilitators aged 18 - 30 from universities, bus-stops, shops, restaurants and even busking on the street. We ensure they are stable people, are Garda vetted and then we put these wonderful people through a selection process to see if working with young people is truly their passion.

In August 2014, after an intense two year training period we chose our first 6 Facilitators from a crew of 20 incredible young people. This 6 then began the final stage of their training which involved shadowing Karl and Tony in schools over the September to December 2014 schedule, taking on and running more of the program, while also continuing their training out of school in the evenings and the weekends. It hasn’t been an easy road for the first Soar facilitators. They are constantly operating out of their comfort zones and are coming to terms with how challenging holding safe spaces for young people can be when you are facilitating the real lives of young people full of joys, dreams and hurt, all the while encouraging exploration of their highest potential.

The next stage of Soar’s model of ‘young people inspiring young people’ is also in progress as we are training of future youth facilitators from those that have experienced the Soar program in schools over the last two years. We can't wait to expand our tribe!

Youth Crew

Our Youth Crew is made up of 40 brilliant young people from all over the country. They all come from different backgrounds and are a melting pot of honesty, creativity and brilliance. They are currently in a two year training program with the aim of being the next group of Youth Facilitators in 2018.

Our Supporters

As we are 100% independently funded, Soar could not exist without the belief, motivation and generosity our supporters and partners provide.

We are funded by a group of hugely special people and companies who have allowed Soar to reach thousands of young people throughout Ireland.

Corporate Partners

These companies have supported us with essential building blocks at the initial stages and continue to do so with financial support and many other currencies. Our gratitude to you means that you will always be part of the Soar story.

Foundations and Grants

This group have played a key role in Soar’s development through substantial funding and expertise at key stages of our journey

Soar Champions

This group of incredible companies have brought their professional expertise and/or their financial support to bear on Soar's development and we so appreciate their vision.

Former Founding Board Members

We have huge gratitude and love for the former board members who added so much to Soar's development and growth during their time on our board. They continue to offer immense value and guidance. 

Bruce Mansour, Ruairí McKiernan, Diarmuid Lyng and Ian Kingston.

Soar Tribe

At a critical stage of development we would like to thank the following individuals for their contribution to Soar. 

Susan Dargan, Eugene Gibbons, Rory Gillen, Les and Julie Kiss, Alexa McDonagh and Family, Michael Heavey, Maurice Healy, Vincent McNally, Susan McGovern, Microsoft, Karl Kennedy, Claire McKenna, Pauline Rowan and Susan Quirke.

Founding Friends

Supporters of Soar who have contributed funding and expertise at key times in our development:

  • Tony Garry
  • Tony Keily
  • Michael Kearney

In Australia and Canada these people have believed in us from the first day and they will never be forgotten:


The Reach Foundation, Emeli Paulo, Tom Harkin, Paige Campbell, Elliot Costello, Emerald Travel, Don McLardy, Sharon Stynes, Alecia Whitelaw, Ronan Lehane, Jennifer Ring and her crew, Justin Bock, Diarmuid Kelly, Eamonn Eastwood and his Tough Mudder compatriots, and to Steven Gray and all at the Wee Chief.


Alexa, Travis, Justin and Margaret McDonagh, John and Cathy McCabe (always remembered Cathy), Ruth Draper, Jane and John Roy. 

Research and Evaluation

We have recently undertaken critical research specific to Soar workshops for the following reasons:

  • To enable Soar to clearly demonstrate how our workshops are impacting the lives of young people in Ireland.
  • Research findings will help to shape and evolve our workshops based on the requirements and needs of our young people.
  • It is intended that the research would aid in developing an assessment criteria that can be then used to evaluate Soar's advocacy approach and subsequently fill a research gap, in the context of Ireland.

By means of an online survey, the research is being conducted in collaboration with a number of secondary schools from across the nation that has kindly agreed to work with Soar. The survey was designed in partnership with new Philanthropy Capital and addresses eight aspects of subjective well-being; Self-esteem, emotional well-being, resilience, satisfaction with friends, satisfaction with family, satisfaction with community, satisfaction with school, life satisfaction.

This research was focused on transition year students participating in a Soar workshop, with a sample of 200 students from various demographics across Ireland. Participants agreed to complete three surveys. The initial survey was completed up to one week prior to engagement in a Soar workshop and would serve as a control in evaluating the impact. The second survey was administered directly after their participation in the workshop and would gauge the immediate impact of the workshop on the participants. The third and final surveys will be administered after a period of 6 months to evaluate the long term effectiveness of the workshops.

Child Safety

A Safe Ireland for its Children & Young People. 

In order to maximise the safety and welfare of all children and young people that will take part in Soar programs, it is essential that it implements a Child Protection and Welfare policy that meets all legal criteria. The well-being and protection of all young people is our most important priority. Therefore, Soar's aim is to implement a Youth Protection Policy that will be communicated to all members, staff, participants, families and carers as well as reviewed by Soar's designated liaison person every year or more regularly if it is required. It is each individual's duty to be familiar with Soar's protection policy and to adhere to it. Soar will ensure this by providing appropriate briefings and training to all personnel.

Early intervention is a key factor in promoting wellbeing, particularly if the young person is vulnerable or at risk. The prevention and detection of child abuse or neglect requires a coordinated multidisciplinary approach, effective management, clarity of responsibility and on-going training. The right assessment is crucial to determine the possibility of abuse or negligence. When there are reasonable grounds for believing a child or young person may have been, or is at risk of any form of abuse or negligence, Soar will proceed according to the steps laid out in its Youth Protection Policy.

Soar's Youth Welfare and Protection Policy aims to:

  • Promote the protection of children and young people throughout all in school and out of school Soar programs.
  • Develop greater awareness of child welfare issues amongst the Board of Management, Staff, Facilitators, Trainee facilitators, Volunteers and Work Placement Students.
  • Provide clear and up to date guidelines on the Code of Conduct which is the standard of expected ethical behaviour for everyone within the organisation in the process of carrying out their every-day work.

Our Youth Welfare and Protection Policy sets out:

  • Definition, forms and signs of abuse and neglect.
  • Dealing with a disclosure.
  • Reporting suspected or actual child abuse or neglect.
  • Allegations for Complaints Against Workers.
  • Roles and Responsibilities of All members of Soar.
  • Roles and Responsibilities of Soar's Designated Liaison Person.
  • HSE Social Work Contact Details.
  • Useful Links and Legislation.

Soar will continue to safeguard according to its Youth Welfare and Protection Policy by ensuring the following:

  • All those working for and on behalf of Soar will be Garda Vetted. You can download Soar's Garda Vetting form here.
  • Child protection Training will be provided to all working for and on behalf of Soar.

Download our Youth Welfare and Protection Policy

Our Safety Statement

We Know What We Are Doing
We have worked with over 10,000 young people in hundreds of schools all over Ireland.  Soar Facilitators and our Child Protection Team are highly trained, skilled and experienced at creating a structured, safe environment within our workshops where young people make a connection to themselves, the Facilitators and each other.

Young People Are Able For This
Consistently, within our workshops, young people are sharing with their peers many different issues they have been carrying, in some cases for a long time.  The coping skills and resilience of young people is often in stark contrast to how adults in their world perceive their coping skills to be.  The Soar workshops are an opportunity for young people to listen to each other, share and support each other. 

We Are Here For you
Before and after each workshop our Child Protection Team link in with the staff that are part of the schools Care Team i.e. Guidance Counsellors and/or Pastoral care Team or any other staff member that fulfils this support role. This allows Soar to share our knowledge and expertise of organisations that work with young people both nationally and locally providing the curative support that some young people may need. Referrals to these organisations can be part of a care plan for young people as they continue to draw on their own coping skills, resiliency and support from their peers.

What Happens Next:

  • Our Child Protection Team will contact you in the next few days to carry out a post program follow up with your school to ensure any at-risk or vulnerable young people get the ongoing support and after care they may need.  
  • If a young person seeks help before we call you please know that Our Child Protection Team are here to support you and share our knowledge and expertise of organisations that work with young people both Nationally and locally providing the curative support that some young people may need.  You can call us or email
  • If any other young person that may not have attended the workshop today would like additional support we are also happy to speak with you and support you to find the right option for them.
  • It was a big day for everyone today so make sure you look after yourself this evening and for the next few days, be kind to yourself and get in touch at any point, even if it is in a few weeks, if you need to chat about the workshop you experienced.

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