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Volunteering with Special Olympics

Jackie O’Kane from Limavady volunteers with Roe Valley Special Olympics Club in Limavady.

1. What does your volunteering involve?
I am Chairperson of Roe Valley S O C and I also volunteer for Special Olympics Ulster/Ireland. My roles involve coaching the athletes in Athletics, attending committee meetings, fundraising, events management, family liaison, family co-ordinator and part of the administration of the club.

2. When did you first begin volunteering?

3. What inspired you to get involved?
My brother-in-law was involved as an athlete with the Special Olympics and I went to see him at the National Games in Dublin and all I can say is I was hooked I wanted some of what they had.

4. What attracted you to the role?
My family being involved and then Special Olympics put an advertisement on television for volunteers for the Games in Belfast and I thought I would try it as a one off, seven years later I am still volunteering.

5. What skills or qualities are required for your volunteering role?
Good personality, a willingness to be there.  To be able to do what needs to be done, by learning from others and the best people to learn from are the athletes themselves.  Once you get to know them everything else falls into place.

6. Why do you volunteer?
I LOVE IT, when you see the progression and change in the athletes it makes it all worthwhile.

7. How often do you volunteer?
Four hours per week.

8. What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
The athletes, after all it is all about them.

9. Why would you encourage others to get involved?
Simply for the rewards and satisfaction you see and get from the athletes you will always get more out than you put in.

10. What has been the highlight of your volunteering?
Two highlights: 1- Seeing the Roe Valley Special Olympics Club compete at their first completion in Antrim, the athletes had worked very hard all year to compete and most of all, we all had the same polo shirts that gave the message, we are a club and we have arrived.
2- The other volunteers you meet at the events, it really is like one big family.  You make friends that you will have for life.

11. What advice would you give someone starting to volunteer?
Think of the activity you wish to volunteer in, or the group of individuals that you want to work with; it could be sport, arts, music, the elderly, young people, any form of disability!

Think out of the box as I did, I came from a financial background and I am now coaching athletes competing in Special Olympics. Be open minded, why not try something new; volunteering gives you the opportunity to do something you have always wanted to do and skills or qualifications are not always necessary. Go for it.

12. Do you think the London 2012 Olympics will inspire people to get involved in sport and will it leave a legacy?
I don’t know if it will encourage people to get involved in sport however it might encourage those already participating in sport activities to start volunteering in the community; well at least I hope it does.