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Special Olympics East Herts (SOEH)

Fri 21st July 2017

Special Olympics East Herts (SOEH) are preparing to attend the 10th National Summer Games (NSG) from 7th August until Saturday 12th August 2017 in Sheffield.  It will be the largest sports event to take place in GB for people with an intellectual (learning) disability.  The games are a major undertaking involving months of planning, organisation and fundraising.  The last time the games were held in Sheffield was 1993.


Janet Warrington, Disability Sports Development Officer for SOEH said “SOEH is a branch club of the SO Eastern Region.  Neil Ward, Deputy Headteacher at Amwell View School and Specialist Sports College attended the Leicester NSG in 2009 with a small team of pupils.  Amwell View School has been involved with Special Olympics since 1979, however, this was the first Games that Neil had attended.  He was blown away with the scale of the games and the age range of people participating (8-80 years old).  He decided there and then to set up a branch in East Herts primarily, so that ex-pupils could continue to enjoy the sports they love after they have left school, however, also so that other people in the local community with a learning disability could also enjoy the Special Olympics training and competitions.”


November 2009 Special Olympics East Herts was affiliated to SOGB starting with two main clubs: Swimming (Hoddesdon Swimming Club) and Athletics (Amwell View PE Teachers ran at Wodson Park, Ware).”


Today, the branch has over 20 different sessions for sports, physical and social activities: Athletics, Basketball, Boccia, Canoe, Choir, Cycling, Drama (Purple All-Stars Cheshunt) Football, Fitness, Golf, Gymnastics, Hockey, Netball, Swimming, and Ten-Pin Bowling.


The Special Olympics movement was founded in the USA in 1968 by the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of President John F Kennedy.  Shriver believed that the Olympic ideals of sport could give confidence and new hope to people with intellectual (learning) disabilities as well as to those who cared for them.  Today Special Olympics reaches over 4 million athletes in more than 170 countries worldwide.   Special Olympics GB was founded in 1978 (then known as Special Olympics UK).


Neil Ward said “I am very proud of where SOEH has come over the last 6 years.  We have a fantastic group of volunteers who run the clubs, organise fundraising events, and prepare for the mammoth task of taking our athletes to competitions and the Games such as Sheffield.  This time round we have SOEH members representing SO Eastern in seven sports: Aquatics, Netball, Tennis, Basketball, Golf, Football, and Boccia.  We have four Head Coaches and thirteen Team Coaches who are all volunteers, they will also be the carers for our athletes.  We are taking twelve female athletes and twenty-five male athletes.  SOEH are one of six branches making up the SO Eastern Team (SO East Herts, SO Essex, SO St Albans, SO Suffolk, SO Norfolk and SO Peterbrough), which a total number of 261 people made up of 178 athletes and 83 volunteer coaching staff.  We are very excited as the date grows ever nearer and will be reporting about our athletes’ performances and successes at the games via our website and social media @SOEastHerts.”


Iconic singer Tony Hadley will be headlining at the Opening Ceremony on the evening of Tuesday 8th August at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane Stadium.  The Opening Ceremony show will be hosted by three big name stars: Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter, F1 broadcaster Suzi Perry and football pundit Chris Kamara.  The general public can purchase tickets to go to the Opening Ceremony which start from as little as £5.


In May 2017 Neil Ward and Janet Warrington were invited to the first Royal Garden Party as guests to meet The Queen and other members of The Royal Family because SOEH were selected to receive the Queens Award for Voluntary Service 2017. The award is given to local volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work done in their own communities.  It was created in 2002 to celebrate the anniversary of The Queen’s coronation.  It is the MBE for volunteer groups.


Neil Ward, said “we are so proud that SOEH has been selected to receive the Queen’s Award for Volunteer Service 2017.  We are planning to share this success with all of our volunteers, with whom this would not be possible at our Annual Presentation Evening on Friday 8th September at Wodson Park in Ware.