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, character development workshops for young people aged 13 to 18 years from all backgrounds. Our workshops empower young people to thrive, believe in themselves and fulfill their true potential. Within a supportive environment, they are given the opportunity to be themselves and explore any challenges that hold them back from doing so. We have worked with over 47,000 young people since 2012 and we’re just getting started!

Soar was founded in 2012 by Tony Griffin and Karl Swan. They were inspired by the work of Jim Stynes and The Reach Foundation in Melbourne Australia having seen the documentary “Every Heart Beats True: The Jim Stynes Story”.

In October 2012, Soar was recognised as an award winning organisation in achieving the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Impact Award. This success in the first year was vital in building the foundations of the Soar you see today. 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 young people. You can learn about our journey so far in our Soar Story below. Or you can read all of our previous chapters here.

Our People


Mark Mc Donnell - CEO

What one thing do you think is surprising about you
I’d like to own a small farm when I’m older
What do you value most in friend
Authenticity, generosity, lack of judgement and a desire to break the rules with me every now and again
Hidden talent?
I can make a Dolphin sound with my mouth – well I think it sounds like a Dolphin anyway!
Most embarrassing moment?
Getting caught by my manager eating chicken out of a bin when I was 19 on a working holiday
5 songs you would bring to a dessert Island?
Pretty Lights – ‘I can see it in your face’
The Gloaming – ‘The Sailor’s Bonnet’
Grandmaster Flash – ’The Message’
Pearl Jam – ‘Once’ and The West’s Awake!


Tony Griffin - Co-Founder, Former-CEO, Consultant

What is your best quality?
My curiosity. Or my nose…it’s a close one!
What book, album or movie influenced who you are?
The Alchemist – I was trying to decide if I stay in a well-paid 9-5 job that I didn’t like or go to university in Canada to a place I didn’t know. It inspired me to trust my heart and I’ve never looked back. The change of direction was badly needed and felt right but that book gave me the courage to go for it.
What do you value most in friend?
That they will encourage me to be myself and celebrate it when I am. Also that they will be honest with me even when they know I won’t want to hear it.
Place in the world you’d love to travel too?
I’d like to drive from LA to Albion in Northern California with my wife and son and have tea with two friends that live there.
What things in life – are still a mystery to you?


Clodagh Leonard - Facilitator - Head of Comms

What is your best quality?
I am embarrassingly honest. There is no part of my life that I hold dear or keep a secret. After hiding my sexuality, my relationships and my depression in my youth, I realised that so much of the pain that I had in my life was in my mind. It was a fear I had constructed that if people knew me they would hate me. So I decided to test the theory and let people know every single inch of me. Those that stuck around got to see what real Clodagh looked like and those that headed off probably weren’t meant to be on this journey with me. But it means that there is a real intimacy in my relationships because nothing is out of bounds.
What book, album or movie influenced who you are?
I think that the book Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk was massively influential for me when I was young. It showed me that there were other people in the world like me. People who were a bit messed up and different and wild and that you could find people like you. That there was value in being a weirdo and community existed for us too. Also my best friend Lorcan gave it to me and we both adored it and it really explained our love so well.
Who would your ideal dinner guests be, alive or dead?
Maya Angelou all the way. Maya Angelou is the person I turn to every time I lose resolve and I feel like the bottom is falling out of my life. Her writing is so compassionate and gets right to the heart of the woman I want to be. She is composed and graceful but takes absolutely no shit.
What is your favourite album, book, movie?
Album: Swoon – Prefab Sprout or The Visitors – Abba
Book: War of the Worlds- H.G. Wells or Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Movie: Psycho – Alfred Hitchcock


Orlagh Reilly - Facilitator - Head of School Relationships

What is your biggest flaw?
Always trying to get everything ‘right’.
Advice for your younger self?
Show a bit more of my vulnerability to others.
What do you fear most in life?
Loneliness and war
5 songs you would bring to a dessert Island?
Simon and Garfunkel – The Boxer
Macklemore – Downtown
American Pie – Don McLean
Ed Sheeran – Photograph
Coldplay – ANY TRACK!
What things in life – are still a mystery to you?
The universe and space BLOW.MY.MIND – like seriously, what is out there?!


Ronan Conway - Facilitator - Trainer

What is your biggest flaw?
I can be disorganised & I can overthink things. I think.
What book, album or movie influenced who you are?
The Nirvana album – Unplugged in New York.
Movie – Point Break from back in 1991.
Most embarrassing moment in Soar, work or workshop
Well I heard of a phrase called FOMO, which apparently means ‘Fear of Missing Out’. In one workshop with 100 teenage girls, I tried to be cool, and casually dropped the word FOMO into the conversation. They all stared at me in silence…’what is this guy talking about?’. However, this didn’t knock me. I dropped it into the conversation in the next workshop, and the same blank response followed. The next workshop, I was still sure people would understand me new word. But no, dead silence and confused faces looking back at me…All the time, my co-facilitator is Sinead Murray is smiling and enjoying my embarrassment. Lesson learnt: Don’t try to be cool in front of teenagers.
What do you fear most in life?
Things that haven’t even happened yet.
Do you have a treasured possession?
I have a Marshall Speaker, nice leather handle on it, Bluetooth, with 20 hours of battery. I am a 20-hour portable disco.
5 songs you would bring to a dessert Island?
Pechanga Boys – Time
Pearl Jam – Inside Job
Jack Johnson – Go On
London Grammar – Hey Now Ports – The Devil is a Songbird


Sinead Murray - Facilitator - Trainer

What is your best quality?
My genuine curiosity although sometimes this just comes out in the form of too many questions.
What is your biggest flaw?
Not being able to say no or make the simplest of decisions to save my life…
What do you value most in friend?
Connection, someone who is genuine. Someone who is themselves and accepts you for who you are embracing all parts; the good, the bad and the ugly.
Do you have a treasured possession?
I am a sucker for teddy bears. My oldest one “Brush” is a pretty big deal.
Place in the world you’d love to travel too?
I love travel and it is something that I intend to do lots more of. I fell in love with India the first time that I visited and it feels like a place that will always draw me back. For a new adventure South America is very much on the cards. I would also like to make it over to see Reach in Australia and experience the organisation on a much larger scale to Soar. I could list pretty much everywhere really!


Moira Curran - Recruitment- Comms

What book, album or movie influenced who you are?
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It taught me to start putting my dreams into a reality and quit making excuses as to why I wasn’t letting the possible happen for me.
Advice for your younger self?
Things in your life right now might not seem worth the fight but I promise the reward you will get is worth it.
Most embarrassing moment in Soar, work or workshop?
I forgot to put on shoes before leaving the house for a workshop last week. That was a rough morning!
Place in the world you’d love to travel too?
I don’t think I really have one place that stands out to me but I want to travel to every continent by the age of 30!
5 songs you would bring to a dessert Island?
September by Earth, Wind & Fire
Wonderwall by Oasis
Ivy by Frank Ocean
Warm on a Cold Night by Honne
Redbone by Childish Gambino


Karen O'Brien- Office Manager

What is your best quality?
I’m dependable. I really value good people in my life and will always try to do whatever whenever for them.
Advice for your younger self
Trust yourself, be honest, stand up to your parents, know how brave you already are.
What do you value most in friend?
A kind heart.
5 songs you would bring to a dessert Island?
– Bruce Springsteen – Thunder Road
– ELO – Mr Blue Sky
– Sam Cooke – Bring it on Home to Me
– Huey Lewis and the News – The Power of Love
– Snap! – Rhythm is a Dancer
What things in life are still a mystery to you?
My own mind!!



We at Soar regard ourselves to be incredibly fortunate to have attracted such a talented and beautiful bunch of people to our board. 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.

If you would like to get in touch with our board you can connect with them by email at chair@soar.ie

Chairperson: Bernard Byrne – Head of Capital Markets – Davy
Secretary: Pat Connolly – A&L Goodbody
Clodagh Hughes – CEO Motiv8

Marah Curtin – Associate Director, Davy

Niamh O’Carroll – Director, O Carroll Consulting

David Swan – SMBC Aviation Capital

Ryan McCarthy – KPMG