Special Olympians need funds for LA Games

| 20/01/2015 | 0 Comments
Cayman News Service

Special Olympian Andrew Smiley

(CNS): This year the Cayman Islands is sending its biggest team ever to the Special Olympic Games, which will take place in Los Angeles in July and August. However, the team is facing a hefty bill, needing around $170,000 to send the 37 athletes and support personnel to the Games. At a press briefing last week Andrew Smiley, one of the country’s most successful Special Olympians, urged the community to help with fundraising efforts and keep up their general support during their current training regime.

The chair of the committee, Nick Freeland, said the money the team needs is in addition to the normal running costs, which are covered by their regular sponsors and a government budget. However, competing at the Games requires considerably more cash and he urged people in the private sector to consider the team as possible recipients of their fundraising and charitable efforts. With the expectation of one major sponsor covering around $70,000, he said the team still needs to raise another $100k before it departs for the US on 21 July.

More than 7,000 athletes representing 177 countries will take part in the world’s largest sporting event this year. The Cayman Islands will be sending a delegation of 54 people, with an age range of nine to 54, and team members will be competing in track, swimming, football, basketball and other sports such as bocce. The athletes’ performances will also be covered on local TV as Cayman 27 is sending a news team.

Toni Johnson, head of Cayman’s delegation, said this will the seventh world games that Cayman has competed in but there are a number of firsts for the country. As well as sending its first ever football and basketball teams, a number of special athletes will be accompanied by unified partners — non-special athletes who help train, support and even compete alongside special competitors — which is designed to help develop closer connections between all sports men and women.

Johnson said the athletes were now training very hard and all of those who have qualified have done so based on performance and commitment to training.

Smiley, a veteran special athlete and one of the team leaders, urged people to help with the fundraising but also to offer words of support to athletes when they see them ahead of the event, which he said the team was very excited about.

Osbourne Bodden, the sports minister, said that the government already partially funds the Special Olympic Committee with an official annual budget but it is not in a position to cover the cost of the Games as well and urged the corporate community to help. He said that if the fundraising efforts fail to reach the target, the sports ministry may be able to assist with the top-up but he said the athletes were relying on the private sector.

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