Comedian and Thank You Fund Ambassador, PJ Gallagher, holding a picture of his role model: Jason Byrne.

Applications for the Thank You Fund 2017 are now closed.

This week saw the launch of the 2017 Coca-Cola Thank You Fund in Dublin. The fund seeks to give away grants totalling €100,000 to youth charities across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. We caught up with one of the fund’s ambassadors, comedian PJ Gallagher.

What made you want to become an ambassador for the Thank You Fund this year?

The fact that Coca-Cola’s going to give €100,000 to non-profit groups to help youth development. It’s a fantastic fund to be a part of.

“It's a lot of money. It's the sort of money that makes a huge difference.”

I'm always really uncomfortable with the fact that young people get bashed a lot in the media, called the 'snowflake generation' and stuff like that. Young people now are just more open, they do more things, they try more things, they are more ambitious, they are really willing to work hard and it gets ignored a bit. I genuinely think they get a really bad press.

So it's nice to be able to give something back – that's why the whole 'thank you' aspect of the fund really rings a bell.

Why is the Thank You Fund so important?

It's a lot of money. It's the sort of money that makes a huge difference. Even a fraction of that for care workers and people who are volunteers just makes a huge big difference. So to have that €100,000 going towards these things is great. It's also great that it is so open. You get to apply and pitch and make your case to get it – that just seems like a really fair way to do it.

How do you think the Thank You Fund will help young people?

It's about giving people a voice more than anything else. Young people do have a voice but it’s very fractured, it's all over the place.

Any sort of hand up, anything that helps out, that goes to the development is a good thing. If it's working class young people feeling a little bit of hope because they have got somewhere to go and somebody is saying 'yes, we care – there is funding here and we can go and work with you'.

Or if it's issues around teen depression - if it goes that way and you are again saying to young people 'we care, here is something we are trying to do, we are trying to help'. It's about bringing people together really, sharing that load.

“There's not a hope I'd be here today as a comic if it wasn't for my role model. I don't know what I'd be doing – probably eating porridge in Mountjoy prison!”

Who was your role model growing up and what did they teach you?

I picked Jason Byrne the comedian, which people are kind of laughing at me for. I picked him because when we started out doing stand-up he was the one who encouraged me all the time. I tried to walk away from stand-up comedy I'd say 11 or 12 times and he would just sneak off and book me for a gig and not even tell me he did it. 

PJ Gallagher at the launch of the Thank You Fund in Dublin.

Being encouraged and pushed like that – somebody believing in you – is incredible. Eventually the day came when I said 'Thank God he did that' because I probably wouldn't have done it for myself. There's not a hope in hell I'd be here today as a comic if it wasn't for him. I don't know what I'd be doing – probably still delivering letters for a living or eating porridge in Mountjoy prison. If I get to embarrass him by choosing him it's an added bonus.

What will you be doing as an ambassador?

Spreading the word is the main part and trying to put it out there and encourage people to apply for the money. The money is no good to anybody if people don't apply for it. So it's about asking people to go onto the Coke website and start applying, state your case and get the cash out there. On my own radio station I will be bleating on about it.

What helped boost your self-confidence as a young person?

I always struggled with confidence and anxiety up until a couple of years ago really. I ruined 20 years of stand-up comedy by pure anxiety and dread and then eventually I just realised it was just a load of stuff in my head. It was friends and family, people at gigs, other stand-ups saying: “You’re all right, you have this”.

They reminded me to look at the gigs I'd done and said: “Count how many went bad, you will still be able to keep count, now count how many went well and you'll lose count years ago”. It was that reassurance and just people being nice to you – that makes all the difference in the world. People actually just being nice to you is a huge thing. I was just very lucky to be surrounded by good people.

Find out more and apply to the 2017 Thank You Fund