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Governor-General honours members of Down syndrome community

11th October 2017

Governor-General honours members of the Down syndrome community.

The Governor-General of New Zealand, Dame Patsy Reddy, hosted the annual Frances Clarke Memorial Awards, celebrating the achievements of young people with Down syndrome, at Government House, Wellington on Tuesday 10th October 2017

This was be the 27th year these awards have been presented by the Wellington Down Syndrome Association.

The Frances Clarke Memorial Awards recognise and encourage achievements of people born with Down syndrome in the greater Wellington district. Special achievements need not be spectacular nor world first but they will have taken determination, application and perseverance. They demonstrate the ability of someone with Down syndrome to overcome their difficulties by completing a task or by showing through their way of life and attitudes towards others that they lead full and rewarding lives.

Ben Sigmund, former All White and Wellington Pheonix football player helped present the awards and spoke about what it takes to aim for excellence. Ben cited how his personal connection to Special Olympian, Jason Donovan has shown him how an individual’s determination was the ultimate factor to their success.

Tuesday’s recipients included Fletch Gallagher (Miramar) receiving the youth award (8-16 Award), and joint adult winners Brendon Porthouse (Otaki) and Stephen Williams (Paraparumu).

This year’s Outstanding Contribution to the Community award went to Sue Elsworth, for her commitment to establishing group Speech Language Therapy in the Wellington Region. Sue tirelessly coordinated sessions and maintained it’s funding for over 10 years contributing to the development of over 40 young people’s social and language skills. “Rather than focus exclusively on making the life of her own family easier she has sought solutions to common problems that benefit the entire Down syndrome community” said Wellington Down Syndrome Association Co-ordinator Kerry Ryan.

Fletch Gallagher’s growing independence, social engagement and abilities in cooking, technology, as well as Slalom and Equestrian events were all cited in his nomination by Evans Bay Intermediate Teacher Mike Tolley.

Brendon Porthouse was nominated by teacher Gaelene Praat from Waiopehu College, for his athletic abilities in swimming, Bocce, and horse-riding as well as his service to the community. “Brendon is a delightful student whose enthusiasm is contagious! These achievements are particularly significant for him because he has numerous barriers to overcome in order to undertake tasks that come so easily to others”

Stephen Williams was honoured as “an inspiring human being, one whose life has been lived according to simple enduring principles”, said nominator Michele Ness. He has raised funds for Africa in numerous famines, and has a continual focus on New Zealand’s role as peacekeepers, paying respect to NZ Army soldiers whenever he can.


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