Mark Fitzgerald describes the sponsored cycle he and his classmates undertook to raise funds for the Special Olympics, Mark Fitzgerald, Third-year student, Sandford Park School


Last year, in my CSPE class, we discussed the Special Olympics. We had all watched events in the Olympics on a number of occasions, but some of us had not been aware of the Special Olympics until we read or heard that they were going to be held in Ireland for the first time in 2003. We talked together and then we decided that our class would undertake a sponsored cycle to support the Special Olympics.

CSPE is about rights and responsibilities and we felt a responsibility to help others and the need to support Ireland’s biggest-ever sporting event, particularly as it was for adults and children with special needs. I was thrilled, as I really enjoyed myself while doing the cycle. This shows that raising money through sponsorship does not need to be a drag!

One of our aims in the project was to sponsor an athlete, but although we raised enough money we were too late with our contribution because all athletes had already been sponsored by the time we had the money raised. We wanted to sponsor an athlete because it would make us connect with that person and we would then take an extra interest in him/her and the Special Olympics. The money we raised did go to help the Special Olympics. At the end of the cyclethon I felt satisfied because I knew that I had got out of my shell and done something for others.

I think the Special Olympics is a terrific idea because it makes people aware of the need to ensure equality and dignity for all people, and I believe that a lot of people’s problems arise because they don’t feel equal and part of society.

In the opening ceremony many celebrities like Roy Keane and the Corrs turned up and this epitomised how important this event was and is for society.

After the terrific success of the Special Olympics I think that it was laughable and shameful that the Government reduced funding for people with disabilities and special needs! Maybe the government ministers were holding the Special Olympics because it would make good publicity for them in Ireland and make them look good. I also feel that they thought it would make them look caring to the outside world.

For the future I hope that discrimination in Ireland and worldwide is ended, because it has the potential to destroy so many people in this world, particularly those people with disabilities and special needs. However, we must remember that discrimination does not just affect people with disabilities and of different religions; it can even happen in schools because ‘that guy is no good at sport’ and they can be picked on and given a bad time as the black sheep. Accepting people for who they are should be a ‘given’ in society.