Special Olympics club provides outlet for New Mossley athlete
The mother of a young athlete with Down’s Syndrome from New Mossley has detailed her daughter’s involvement with the Newtownabbey Racers Special Olympics Club as part of the Special Olympics Can’t Stop Now campaign.
The initiative is calling on all Special Olympics athletes, clubs, volunteers and families across Northern Ireland to engage with the charity to receive virtual support.
Due to Covid-19, all face-to-face club activity was put on hold in March 2020. To help keep athletes well – both physically and mentally - as well as feeling connected to their Special Olympics community and club, the team developed a virtual programme, which included fitness routines, healthy meal recipes and activities to support athletes mentally.
Kathy Wilson’s daughter, Emily (18), has been involved with the Newtownabbey Racers Special Olympics Club for a decade.
Kathy explained: “Emily joined Newtownabbey Racers Special Olympics Club when she was about eight-years-old. I heard about the club through the Newtownabbey Down Syndrome Parent Support Group that I attend at Whiteabbey Hospital.
“Clifford, who set up the club mentioned it to me, and I asked if it was okay for Emily to join as she couldn’t walk at that stage, he said absolutely and that she could sit on the floor and roll the ball or even just sit and watch the others.
“When Emily first joined Newtownabbey Racers, she could only walk a little bit and had to be holding our hand to do so. We brought her along to one of the local competitions at the Valley Leisure Centre and I don’t know what happened, but all of a sudden Emily just let go of our hand and started walking by herself in front of everyone.
“There was a big cheer from everyone, and it was all very emotional, we couldn’t believe it and of course, Emily absolutely loved the praise she got afterwards. She can walk by herself now, she just takes everything at her own pace.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the club, which usually meets every Wednesday at the Valley Leisure Centre, has had to conduct events online.
As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, members of the Newtownabbey Racers are preparing to recommence face-to-face sessions next month.
Kathy explained: “The club is brilliant for Emily. There aren’t many groups that cater for children with special needs and the Newtownabbey Racers provides an outlet for her. She really enjoys going.
“During the summer months they go to the playing fields at the Belfast Boys’ Model School and she loves getting out in the fresh air and mixing with her friends.”
The mother of the Glenveagh School student added: “I would definitely recommend the Newtownabbey Racers to other families in the area.
“It’s a good social thing and a good thing about the Racers is that they spilt everyone up into different groups. I think there’s four different groups, but they go on ability.
“Emily’s group wouldn’t be as mobile. Some are more physically capable, so they cater for that as well. It’s good exercise for them and gives them a reason to get out of the house for a few hours.”
Special Olympics currently supports over 1,600 children and adults with an intellectual disability across Northern Ireland participating in 15 sports across 58 affiliated clubs and groups.
Special Olympics is asking each affiliated club and group to take its virtual pledge.
A recent survey showed that athletes were really missing club engagement and, therefore, Special Olympics is asking its clubs to take a pledge and move to a virtual club.
The virtual club has been designed to support clubs during these challenging times and regular resources will be provided including competitions, challenges and activities that can used when engaging with club members.
For further information on the Can’t Stop Now campaign, click here
If you would like more information about the Newtownabbey Down Syndrome Parent Support Group, call Marie Rowe (chairperson) on 07846293334.
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