ALPS Appreciation

My name is Annita O’Connor. For the last 4 years my mentor Tess Fitzpatrick and I have been a member of Carlow Special Olympics ALP`s Group. During this time I have achieved so many things!

I started with my Bronze Award which involved photography, volunteering, speech making and committee work. After less than a year I received my Bronze Award.

I was voted on to the ALP`s Ireland committee by other ALP`s athletes and this involved many trips to committee meetings in Dublin with my mentor Tess. Some of these meetings involved an overnight stay. We enjoyed these trips as we always had great fun, even when Tess couldn`t find the way! We sat on that committee for two years.

While I was still on the AlP`s Ireland committee I started my Silver Award. This again involved photography, public speaking, volunteering within Special Olympics and committee work. There was more work involved than the Bronze Award. During this time all of our ALP`s group were invited to perform with a dance school from Carlow in their annual show in The George Bernard Shaw Theatre in Carlow. This involved many evenings of rehearsals and 3 nights of shows. We got a standing ovation every night we performed! We were all very proud of ourselves. After a year I received my Silver Award.

I then started my Gold Award 2 years ago. There was a huge amount of work involved with this final award. There was a photography project that I had to complete. There was also another project that I had to do. For this I held an Easter raffle. I had to get sponsorship for prizes and sell raffle tickets every week for 6 weeks. Then at Easter I held the draw in The Dome in Carlow and presented all the prizes.

I had lots of volunteering to do also. I had to volunteer at Special Olympics events and I also had to volunteer outside of Special Olympics. I volunteer at Crettyard Childcare Service and helped out there with the children, I also went on trips away with the children and once even got to teach bowling skills in The Dome. I had to have articles that I wrote published in magazines and newsletters too. I had to do a lot of public speaking too for this award.

The ALP`s group also took part in a Fashion Show in The Seven Oaks Hotel where we all modelled clothes from different boutique’s from Carlow. This was a great night.

Myself and my mentor attended many ALP`s workshops over the last 4 years. Carlow ALP`s group host a workshop every year where we decide what our workshop will be about and we provide food for all the athletes that attend.

I received my Gold Award in May this year along with my good friend Shauna Bradley. Myself and Shauna were presented with our Gold Pins at an ALP`s workshop in Trim, Co. Meath.

I have now finished all my awards. There was a lot of work to be done to get these awards but it was all worth it in the end. Joining the ALP`s programme has made me a very confident person, I realise how much I can achieve with just a little bit of help. I am still a member of Carlow ALP`s group along with my mentor Tess, but we can relax now and enjoy whatever activities we choose to do as all our hard work is now done!

I would like to see every athlete join in this programme and achieve everything that I have achieved!


ALPS Workshop

ALPs Workshop; Money Management and More!

On Saturday the 28th of April, all roads led to Trim for the first Leinster Regional ALPs Workshop of 2012. Knightsbrook Hotel was the perfect setting for all the Athletes and Mentors to take part in some fun (and some serious) activities!

LPs Mentor, Pat O’Keeffe from Carlow SOC got the day started with a bang, putting the group through a strenuous “Chair Aerobics” session. After the long car and bus journeys, the activities ensured everyone was awake and ready for a day of learning and discussion.

After everyone had settled down and recovered from the Chair Aerobics, the group took part in a worthwhile discussion on how they would like to see the ALPs Programme Develop in the Leinster Region. Everyone spoke honestly and passionately about their experiences of ALPs, and provided some crucial feedback on where they see the ALPs programme developing over the coming months and years. 

Next on the agenda; Rachel, Aine and Anna who work together at Price Waterhouse Cooper- Dublin, delivered a great “Money Management” workshop. The girls dealt with issues such the importance of taking responsibility for your finances, managing your budget, deciding on Needs Vs Wants, and the importance of planning for a rainy day. All of the athletes (and some of the Mentors!) showed a great understanding of how important it is to properly plan how you spend your money.

After a well deserved lunch, Carol Farrell from Special Olympics Ireland (Health Promotion Project Officer) kept the budgeting theme going with a very practical workshop, “Cheap Eats- Eating Healthy on a Budget”. The athletes and mentors listened carefully to Carol’s words of wisdom, and showed great budgeting skills when they done their “healthy” shopping lists for the week. Needless to say, there was very little chocolate and crisps put on any of the lists.


The day finished up on a real positive, with Annette Codd (Regional Director- Special Olympics Leinster) and Ray Butler (TD- Meath West) on hand to present well deserved “Certificates of Attendance” to all the participants. It was an extra special day for two athletes and their mentors. After years of hard work and commitment, we were delighted to present athletes Shauna Bradley and Annita O’Connor with their ALPs Gold Awards. It was a great moment for both Shauna and Annita, and they were very quick to acknowledge that none of this would have been possible without the support and friendship of their two mentors, Liz Bradley and Tess Fitzpatrick. On behalf of everyone in Special Olympics Leinster, we would like to congratulate everyone involved on the journey they have taken in the ALPs programme and we hope they can stay involved and continue along their journey.


Special Olympics Europe/ Eurasia Youth Training Seminar

Barry and Pat Olwill from Carlow Special Olympics Athlete Leadership Programme travelled to Brussels to represent Special Olympics Ireland at a SOEE Youth Training Seminar, 28th-30th of November. The seminar focused on training athletes and mentors on how to create websites. On Barry’s return he was quizzed by fellow ALPs athlete PJ Nolan about the experience;

P.J.:                  “Hi Barry, what were you doing in Brussels”?
Barry:               “My dad, who was my mentor, and me were selected to take part in a Special Olympics Europe two day workshop to learn about wiki websites and to create a presentation for the European Parliament”.

P.J.:                  “What’s a wiki website?”
Barry:               “It’s a small website that can be created quickly and easily by an athlete. I learned how to create a wiki website in two days.  An athlete can use it to tell stories about themselves and their lives using images, videos, links, music and text, keeping the text to a minimum to allow viewers to understand it easily. I will show you the links later.”

P.J.:                  “Who else was in Brussels?”
Barry;               “There were athletes and partners/mentors from six other countries; Belgium, Great Britain, Austria, Romania, Italy and the Czech Republic. Our host was ‘Nolwen Grassen’ from Brussels and we had lots of help from Andy, Charlie and Ajay (the wiki wizard), from the RIX centre in the UK.”

P.J.:                  “What was the highlight of your trip”?
Barry:               “Making new friends from all those different countries was great. Also we had to make a presentation to the European Parliament. We had to wear suits and ties and the ladies had to wear their best dresses. Our host at the Parliament was MEP Liam Aylward from Kilkenny and I had to sit beside him up at the top table. Each country then made their presentation. I think they were all good and very well received”.

P.J.:                  “Thanks very much Barry that sounds really interesting”.

Liam Aylward (MEP) gets some advice from Barry Olwill (ALPs Athlete)

Navan Arch Win Basketball Perputual Cup

Navan Arch Basketball team recently competed in the National Basketball Cup on the 26th of November 2011 in the National Basketball Arena, Tallaght.  It was a sucessful trip for the team, they won back the perpetual trophy.  Congratulations to the team and their coaches.  Some pictures of the winning team.

from L to R (back)
Matt English(CEO) SO ireland, Jan Muyllaert(coach) Liam Brady, Andrew Byrne, John Blake, Francis Power
front row
Kieran Rattigan, Fiacra Englishby(captain), Robert McDonald, Brian Carpenter

backrow - Mary Davitt(asst coach), Phylomena O'Hare (table official), Judith Clarke(table official), Robert McDonald, Fiacra Englishby(captain), Kieran Rattigan

frontrow - Steven Brown(injured foot!), Liam Brady, Brian Carpenter, Francis Power, Andrew Byrne, John Blake

Aquatics Events

Three competitions have been held throughout the month of November our first in the Navan Aura Link Leisure Centre and two events in the Army Camp Pool Curragh.

Volunteer Stephen Hynes attended two of these events in the Navan Aura link Leisure and the Curragh Army Camp and he sent us to share his memories of the days.

I experienced these events from a different side this time, having not been involved in the run up to or the running of the events as I have in the past. Funny how you see things differently, I mean, how hard everyone works to bring an event together and then run it.

These events were made extra special, with so many new faces, it was brilliant to see the new, young and not so young, athletes along with the seasoned veterans all competing and having fun together. I really enjoyed seeing the new coaches learning the ropes, new athletes excited for their first event and the big family support willing their athletes on in the pool

You see, Special Olympics for me is not just for the athletes to show they have fantastic abilities; it’s for their families too. "It’s Not just about the competition, it’s about everything that grows from and around it!" It’s for us, the volunteers, the staff and coaches that work day in and day out with the athletes to help build their abilities and bump up their confidence no matter how they perform

At the Navan Aura event I met an old friend who celebrated his 50th birthday with a win in the pool. Alex fan club of supporters from the UK roared as he swam. Alex and other Special athletes like him have taught me so much over the years.  That every child when they are born receive a gift, but every child unwraps their gift in different ways.. Alex is an amazing guy!  So here's a huge happy birthday to a great guy and athlete.

It has to be said; a big big thank you has to given to the staff of the Aura in Navan , Commandant Kirby and the lads and ladies of the Curragh Army Camp and the scouts always their to help with our awards ceremonies

Highest Regards

Stephen Hynes.


Here's some photos of our swimmers



Recognition of Athletes, Clubs and Volunteers by Offaly County Council

Offaly County Council hosted a most enjoyable Civic Reception at Áras an Chontae, Charleville Road, Tullamore last on Thursday December 1st to recognise


  • the Offaly based athletes who attended the 2012 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Greece earlier in the year
  • the  Special Olympics  Clubs – athletes, volunteers  and families in the county

Athletes Patrick Moore (Men’s 5-a-side football) Tullamore Special Olympics Club, Gary McCabe (Men’s Basketball)  Shooting Stars Mullingar and John Michael Gannon (Men’s Artistic Gymnastics) St Hilda’s School Athlone sit alongside Shane Lowry and the All-Ireland winning Offaly Camogie team as prestigious recipients of this civic award.

Cathaoirleach Councillor Danny Owens spoke of the achievement of these four athletes on the international sporting stage and the pride he and his fellow councillors felt on their return earlier in the year from Greece. He presented each of them with a silver engraved award to mark the occasion

The nine Special Olympics Clubs in the county were also recognised by the Council with each of them receiving a framed scroll recognising their ongoing commitment and dedication to Sport in the County.   The clubs that received Ballinamere School , Camcor Warriors Special Olympics Club , Killina Presentation Secondary School, St. Joseph's National School Tullamore , Tanyard Resource Centre, KARE Edenderry Local Service , Offaly School for Special Education , South Offaly Special Olympics Club , Tullamore Special Olympics Club

The large number of athletes, families and coaches from the clubs attending the evening were delighted with the honour bestowed on them by the council and both athletes and coaches acknowledged that the award would hold pride of place on their club walls.