Johnny Mercer MP visited the Plymouth Special Olympics at the YMCA Plymouth on Honicknowle Lane yesterday for the first time since becoming their Patron. Johnny has long had a special affinity with the Special Olympics in Plymouth having volunteered each week with them prior to his election in 2015. Last night, he spent the evening with members of the Plymouth Special Olympics organisation, joining in the games with local competitors and spending time with the dedicated couple behind the Special Olympics in Plymouth, Alan and Maureen Stockdale.
Special Olympics is the third arm of the Olympic movement and was founded in the USA by Eunice Kennedy Shriver sister of John F Kennedy in 1968. Special Olympics Plymouth & District (SOPD) is a branch of Special Olympics Great Britain (SOGB) which has been providing a year round, all ability, sports programme and supports over 10,000 athletes with intellectual (learning) disabilities on a continued basis since 1978. Every four years this sports programme culminates in the Great Britain National Summer Games.
There are many benefits of the Special Olympics which include:
· Highlighting the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities and supporting a shift in attitudes towards disable people
· Counteracting the isolation experienced by people with intellectual disabilities
· Improving self-esteem, an important factor in coping with life, especially bullying
· Providing a forum for developing greater awareness and lasting relationships between disabled and non-disabled people
One of the guiding principles of the Special Olympics is that anyone with encouragement, support and access to resources can have a positive sporting experience raising their confidence, health and wellbeing and giving them opportunities to improve physical fitness and motor skills.
Johnny Mercer MP is also backing the bid for Plymouth to be the host city of the 2021 Great Britain Special Olympics Summer Games. He is working with Mr and Mrs Stockdale along with Plymouth City Council to ensure that Plymouth can put forward a comprehensive bid which will see the city successful in its attempts to hold the games in 2021, the year after the city will have seen the extraordinary Mayflower 400 celebrations.
Speaking after joining local Special Olympic participants yesterday, Johnny Mercer MP said:
“I am delighted to have been appointed Patron of Plymouth’s Special Olympics. Having spent many happy evenings as a volunteer with the organisation, it was great to be back last night, and I only wish I could be there every Wednesday.
“To see Plymouth hosting the Summer Special Olympic Games in 2021 would be a fitting opportunity for the City and the talented men and women who are part of the Plymouth team. I will work to ensure that Plymouth’s bid to host the event is the strongest it can be and will do all I can to see a successful games held in Plymouth in 2021.”
When asked about their passion and vision for the Special Olympics in Plymouth, the organisers, Alan and Maureen Stockdale, said:
“We have run Special Olympics Plymouth for the last 5 ½ years with the help of a dedicated team of volunteers. We all work tirelessly to run the club, raising the funds, awareness and most importantly enabling our athletes to reach and fulfil their personal potential.
“We know what we provide changes people’s lives which gives us the momentum and inspiration for the club to succeed.
“If Plymouth succeeds in the bid to stage the 2021 Games it will raise awareness, acceptance and inclusion for not only our athletes, but everyone in Devon and Cornwall with an intellectual disability and their families and carers.”
Deputy Leader of Plymouth City Council, Councillor Patrick Nicholson has also spoken of the support the Council are giving to the 2021 bid:
“It is my hope that the bid for Plymouth to host the 2021 Special Olympic Games is successful.
“I believe that as a city we have the quality and scale of facilities to offer an outstanding games experience to those taking part. Hosting these games in 2021 will be a fitting follow-on from the Mayflower 400 celebrations across the City in 2020.
“I am delighted that we are able to offer the support of the City Council to the Special Olympics team in Plymouth as we all seek to bring the 2021 Games to Plymouth.”
If you would like more information on becoming a Plymouth Special Olympics competitor or volunteer, please visit http://www.sopd.org.uk