Special Olympics SPARC Finalist

Press Release – Special Olympics NZ

pecial Olympics New Zealand today learned that it is a finalist in the Event Excellence category of the 2010 New Zealand Sport and Recreation (SPARC) Sector Awards for its 2009 National Summer Games. “We are absolutely over the moon,” says Kathy Gibson.Special Olympics New Zealand Named Finalist In SPARC Sector Awards

Special Olympics New Zealand today learned that it is a finalist in the Event Excellence category of the 2010 New Zealand Sport and Recreation (SPARC) Sector Awards for its 2009 National Summer Games. “We are absolutely over the moon,” says Kathy Gibson, Special Olympics Chief Executive Officer. “2009 was a really big year for our organisation and we achieved many wonderful things for our athletes. Being named a finalist in the SPARC Sector Awards is recognition of the hard work of thousands of people.”

In December, Special Olympics New Zealand held its National Summer Games in Palmerston North. The event attracted 1085 athletes ranging in age from nine to 79 and 465 volunteer coaches and team managers from around New Zealand. “The National Summer Games are held every four years as part of our overall athlete development programme,” says Gibson. “It is not an elite event, but is a stepping stone to the ongoing growth for our athletes.” Special Olympics is a global organisation that provides year-round sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

With competition in 10 sports over three days at the National Games, the event not only provided the thrill of sporting competition but also had the scope to increase public awareness through an intensive well-managed media campaign as well as increased donor, sponsor and stakeholder engagement. “It also attracted new volunteers and coaches and generated new athlete interest,” says Gibson. “Additionally, it provided an opportunity for family members to witness their son, daughter or sibling being recognised for their athletic abilities.”

The National Games brought together a wide range of partners and nearly 1000 local volunteers. “Special Olympics New Zealand requested approximately 500 volunteers from the local community,” says Gibson. “Through a sponsored media campaign we attracted 967!” It also attracted many in-kind and financial donations from corporate partners, says Gibson, including Datacom Group, New Zealand Police, the Rotary and Lions Clubs of Manawatu, Mid Central District Health Board, Sport Manawatu, Radio Network, Toyota New Zealand, Bluebird, Kingsgate Hotels, Frucor Beverages, the Palmerston North City Council and Manawatu District Council.

“Another significant aspect of the event was our Healthy Athletes Programme,” says Gibson. “During the course of the event, over 700 of the athletes were screened for hearing, sight, dental and foot health using specially trained volunteer clinicians. People with intellectual disabilities have greater and more complex healthcare needs than the general population and many are unable to recognise when they are unwell or to take appropriate action to access medical services.” With a presence in more than 100 countries, the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes programme has provided free screening to more than 700,000 athletes, making Special Olympics the largest global health organisation dedicated to serving people with intellectual disabilities.
“The Special Olympics National Summer Games supported the inherent philosophies and the benefits of community sport,” says Gibson. “It celebrated success and achievement with sport highlighted as the catalyst for changing the lives of people with intellectual disability. The event celebrated the ‘joy of sport’ through fun and friendship.” The SPARC sector awards will be presented at the New Zealand Sport and Recreation Sector Awards Dinner on 26 April, 2010.

ENDS

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