Special Olympics Volunteer, Brian McGuigan receives BBC Unsung Hero Award


30 Nov 2021
Press Releases

Brian McGuigan is the winner of this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Unsung Hero Award for Northern Ireland.

Brian received the award for his exceptional volunteering contribution to both Special Olympics and the GAA association.

His volunteering journey began when he volunteered at the Special Olympics Ireland Games held in Belfast in 2006. From then, Brian went on to volunteer at multiple fundraisers and sporting events, including Special Olympics Games at Regional, Ireland and World levels.

In the last three years, Brian has helped pave the way to open up two Special Olympics Young Athlete Clubs, Titanic Tigers, which is based in Belfast, and more recently, Oakleaf Lions, in Dungiven.

Special Olympics Young Athlete clubs cater for children who are aged between 4-12 years old that live with an intellectual disability. A fun and playful environment is created to provide early intervention and give individuals a positive experience of sport that’s bespoke to their own needs, setting them on the pathway for a lifelong involvement in sport.

This is the second time this year that Brian has been recognised for his efforts. After pushing to open another Young Athletes club, despite the challenges that arose due to the pandemic, he was also awarded the Spirit of Special Olympics Award at the organisation’s first ever all-island awards.

Commenting on his achievement, Brian said:“I’m the lucky one – I get to spend a few hours each week with my heroes, the athletes, their families and my fellow volunteers.”

“It’s a huge team effort and the clubs are like an extended family. I am very humbled to receive this award, and hope that it will encourage more people from across Northern Ireland to find out how they can get involved with their local Special Olympics Athletes Club. Our athletes rely on the support from volunteers to help them reach their full potential and in many ways, the clubs act as a lifeline to them and their families.”

A Dungiven native, Brian was nominated by one of his fellow GAA volunteers, Conor McCurdy, for the tireless work and support he provides to both organisations. Conor said:“I have coached kids’ teams and played on a team Brian managed this year,and in that time I’ve witnessed first-hand how Brian gives up his time selflessly to two causes that he’s passionate about. He continuously puts the needs of the clubs before his own – and loves every minute of it.”

“Brian has played a pivotal role in driving initiatives for Special Olympics and GAA and I’m genuinely thrilled he has been recognised for this.”


Shaun Cassidy, regional director of Special Olympics, added:“We are delighted for Brian’s win at the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year Awards and are incredibly proud to have him as a valued member of our volunteer team.“He’s a true ambassador for the charity and without our volunteers, we would be unable to support the children and adults living with an intellectual disability across Northern Ireland who rely on their clubs for routine, fitness, physical and mental health training and tools.”

Special Olympics is calling on the public to seek out one of the many rewarding volunteering opportunities at its clubs across Northern Ireland. For more information, please visit www.specialolympics.ie.