VOLUNTEERING FOR SPECIAL OLYMPICS WORLD GAMES 2003

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My name is Deirdre Spain I am 28 years of age I have a learning disability. I attend St Michael’s House Training Centre in Santry Hall. I have a job as a service attendant in Jurys Inn, Christchurch Dublin, for the last four and a half years. I live in Raheny with my parents Eamon and Jean and my sister Tara.

This is a piece about my wonderful memories of volunteering at the Special Olympics World Games. On Sunday 23rd February 2003 I went with my mother to the Point Depot to attend a training session for volunteers who were to help with the Special Olympics World Games. This was very good as we had Mary Black singing and Ian Dempsey presenting the session. It was like going to a concert. I know I couldn’t wait for the Olympics to start.

I had helped with the National Games in May 2002, as I was not able to take part in the games myself at the time. In the previous National Games I represented Leinster in swimming and I had won gold, silver and bronze medals in the Games.

So when the World Games were coming to Ireland I felt I should help out again. I got an assignment to be a steward at the bowling venue out in Leisureplex in Blanchardstown. That was the same job I had in the National Games. We were shown a video of what was expected of us and a video of the World Games which were held in America. They showed how in America they do not like the name ‘mental handicap’—as we don’t here in Ireland, where we say ‘learning disability’. I myself was happy to hear this, as I do not like the name mental handicap. It is very upsetting.

I had won some tickets to go to the opening of the games, but I gave them to my sister. My mother was going as a guest.

I had to get up at six o’clock each morning to get to Blanchardstown by eight o’clock. My team manager gave me my job for that day, which was to bring the bowlers to their lanes and stay with them until their competition was finished. It was great to see all the Special Olympians from all the different countries. I would like to travel to some of the countries of the people I met.

When the competitions were finished, I brought the medals winners to the winning stand for them to receive their medals. This was very exciting and different to taking part myself- I was a little sad that I wasn’t getting a medal myself, but I soon got over it. Each day when the competitions were over all the volunteers clapped the Special Olympians to their buses. My sister Tara or my Dad picked me up most evenings, as I was so tired—but very happy to help. We all signed a memory book in which we left messages to remember our time at the ‘Plex’—and the wonderful people I met who treated me just like any other volunteer.

On the last day, which was, Sunday I attended the closing ceremony in Croke Park with the new friends I had made while volunteering at the bowling. It was wonderful, with lots of music and celebrations. I watched my friend Mandy put out the Olympic Flame with President Mary McAleese. I had a wonderful time. I made many friends.

I am now back swimming in a new swimming club. I have made many new friends, thanks to the World Games, and one day I hope I will get the chance to represent my club in the Special Olympics. My real dream would be to be picked for the Ireland team.

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