Irish Tatler Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award Goes to Kildare Woman Karen Leigh

Leigh is the founder and CEO of a charity which looks after children with special needs. Bridging the gap between the private and public sector, sensational kids is made up of a wonderful team of people who make a tremendous difference for families throughout Ireland. Ten years ago, Karen Leigh was appalled by the lack of support she could find for her children. Upon discussing with fellow parents, she realised that many children with special needs faced lengthy waiting lists and couldn’t access affordable and accessible occupational therapy services. It is from her own experience then, and her dedication to the cause that Sensational Kids was born. This community and voluntary organisation is now celebrating a decade in business and employs 21 staff across its centres in Kildare and Cork. The fact that parents from Donegal and Waterford have made the trip to bring their children to Sensational Kids for therapy sessions speaks volumes of the charitable organisation’s success and expertise. So do the many awards it has been granted, such as the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Impact Award, The Social Enterprise Development Award from Social Innovation Ireland and the GSK Ireland Impact Award. Both founder and CEO of Sensational Kids, Leigh herself has been awarded the Network Ireland Businesswoman of the Year Awards 2017 in the Social Enterprise Category. Leigh and her charity’s success are impressive, especially when one is aware that they do not receive any state funding and make this endeavour successfully work through the dedication and sheer will of power. Asked about her achievements as an entrepreneur, Leigh’s answer is the epitome of humility. She is a mother first things first, and the mother to children with additional needs. Leigh indeed speaks with passion of how much those services are needed across Ireland. She is determined to help all children with additional needs – not only the over 5,000 children who have crossed Sensational Kids’ doors, but also those undiagnosed and those who have fallen through the system to reach their potential. The expansion of Kildare’s premises and the opening of a third centre in the West of Ireland in 2018 will bring much welcomed relief to many families, and more specifically, to the 1 in 4 children in Ireland with a special educational need. On receiving the award Karen Leigh said “I am very honoured to receive this award. It’s fantastic recognition for the whole team at Sensational Kids who work very hard with limited resources to deliver life changing impacts for children with additional needs. I would like to thank the judging panel and the organisers for an uplifting event. It was a privilege to share the stage with the inspirational and courageous women who also won awards. Sensational Kids relies heavily on fundraising and donations to support our subsidised early intervention services for children. Anybody who would like to support Sensational Kids or would like to find out more about how you can help us continue our vital supports for children can donate online at or email or by phone on 045 520900” The Social Entrepreneur Award of WOTYA18 is sponsored by Huawei.