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Local athlete fronts Special Olympics Awareness Week

Local athlete fronts Special Olympics Awareness Week

Special Olympics New Zealand is set to kick off its first ever Awareness Week, with the support of Hutt Valley athlete Rebecca Heath.

Special Olympics New Zealand provides a year-round programme of sports training and competition for more than 7,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities in New Zealand. Athletes take part in training programmes at their local Clubs and have the opportunity to compete regionally, nationally and even internationally.

Rebecca is one of four Special Olympics athletes fronting its first ever awareness week from 5-12 July, supporting the organisation by featuring in advertising and publicity, and spreading the word about its important work. The campaign is also being supported by sportsperson Beauden Barrett.

Rebecca (28) joined Special Olympics Wellington around 13 years ago, and has recently moved to Special Olympics Hutt Valley where she competes in swimming and skiing. She is also one of the organisation's ‘Global Messengers’ having graduated from its Athlete Leadership Programme in 2010.

“Special Olympics has given me confidence and I am fitter than I was – I also like the people and seeing the other athletes at the competitions,” Rebecca says. “Becoming a Global Messenger has given me confidence to speak out and spread the word about how good Special Olympics is. Being involved in the Awareness Week is great because more people need to know about how good Special Olympics is and how great our volunteers are.”

As well as keeping busy with sport, Rebecca (30) also works as a teacher aide at Wellington High School where she finished her schooling. “I try not to let my intellectual and physical disabilities affect me. I look at what I can do not what can’t do,” she says.

Chief Executive of Special Olympics, Kathy Gibson, said supporting athletes with intellectual disabilities like Rebecca to realise their potential is what Special Olympics is all about.
“We’re about so much more than sport, and that’s the message we’re wanting to communicate during this Awareness Week,” says Kathy Gibson, Chief Executive of Special Olympics New Zealand.
“While sport is our main focus, the benefits of participating in Special Olympics are much greater than physical fitness.

“Through participating in sport, athletes with intellectual disabilities make friends, gain confidence, and they get to be part of a team. As athletes develop physically and emotionally, they learn that they can achieve not only on the sports field, but also out in the community.

“I’d like to encourage New Zealanders to give generously during this Special Olympics New Zealand Awareness Week, to help us to continue to offer these opportunities to more New Zealanders with intellectual disabilities.”

Special Olympics New Zealand’s Awareness Week runs from 5-12 July 2015. Text GIVE to 2449 to donate $3 to Special Olympics New Zealand or visit


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