Seeking a special sponsor

For the last five years members of the Longford Special Olympics Club have worn the same tracksuits at their athletic meets.

For the last five years members of the Longford Special Olympics Club have worn the same tracksuits at their athletic meets.

This year Club Chairman, Liam Madden, is appealing for a Longford business person or people to sponsor a new kit for the team.

"We would love to get a sponsor to buy everyone in the club a new tracksuit. They haven't been replaced in five years. We are planning on doing some fund-raisers this year to help us achieve this also," said Liam in speaking with the Longford Leader.

Longford Special Olympics Club came into being following the 2003 International World Games which were held in Ireland.

"The national body asked if we would set up a branch of the Special Olympics in Longford. Everyone got involved and in 2005 / 2006 we started off with six members. Today we have forty," said Liam.

The Longford Club meets twice a week for ten pin bowling and swimming, with athletes coming from all over the county to attend these events. Despite the weekly training and the commitment undertaken by the athletes to reach the International Games in Greece in 2012, the harsh reality is that the majority of them will not succeed. This is largely due to the structure of the Special Olympics body.

"Very few get the opportunity to participate at that level. With the setting up of the Special Olympics Clubs people got the impression that it would allow more people to get involved both nationally and internationally. This has not been the case.

"The structure only allows for limited numbers and is based on how you perform on a single day," said Liam. Despite this two local members made it to the Special Olympics in China in 2008. Sean Keenan and John Paul Shaw both represented Ireland in soccer.

Among the many positive attributes to being involved in the Longford Special Olympics Club is the social outlet it provides.

"We are also a social club and over Christmas we travelled to Ballymahon Secondary School for their musical," he said. "We also liaise with clubs in Roscommon and Athlone and are always looking for other clubs to get involved. It's something for our athletes to look forward to, rather than just meeting here in Longford."

In terms of the disabilities of the Special Olympics Club members, the range is wide.

"Everyone with a learning disability is welcome, as is everyone with a disability in general," said Liam. "Most of our members are people who work in sheltered workshops during the day. Unlike everyone else, they are relying upon the club to facilitate them and to give them a social outlet."

For Liam, it is important to realise the isolation one can feel when they have a disability.

"Some people with a disability have no social life and this (the club) is a great opportunity for them to get out and we are delighted to facilitate them," said Liam.

Looking forward to the future, Longford Special Olympics Club has two teams going to Galway later this month for a bowling competition.

"We are looking forward to that and to the other events we have planned this year, such as a party in June to celebrate six years of the Longford Special Olympics Club," said Liam. "Our success to date would not have been possible without our very loyal band of committed helpers. I don't think people realise the work that these people do with our club."

If you would like to sponsor or donate funds to the Longford Special Olympics Club, please contact Liam Madden on 086-8149902. Alternatively, please contact Liam if you wish to get involved with the Club.