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Twenty years of Special Olympics volunteering for Niamh – and she’s not done yet!

Last year, Niamh attended the Berlin Special Olympics in June following a substantial fundraising effort

Niamh Withers

Armagh city’s own Niamh Withers has been volunteering for the Special Olympics for 20 years – and she’s no desire to stop now!

Niamh’s keeping up her Olympic volunteering tradition as she will once again be on the Media Team at the Special Olympics Ireland Winter Games, which will be held from March 22 to March 24.

They’re set to be held in Craigavon and will be running at the South Lake Leisure Centre and Craigavon Golf and Ski Centre – the first time that Northern Ireland has ever hosted the Games.

Comprising of two sports, Alpine Skiing (at Craigavon Golf and Ski Centre) and Floorball (South Lake Leisure Centre), the event is set to be one of the largest Games yet, with 207 athletes from all corners of Ireland set to participate.

It was initially meant to take place here in 2020, but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s good that it’s finally happening because the guys had all trained so hard and were ready to go and then it was about a week or two before it was about to happen it all stopped,” Niamh said.

“I’m with the media team, so one day I’ll be with the Skiing and one day I’ll be with the Floorball. I’ll be getting photographs, stories from the families and just getting the word out there about the Games.”

Last year, Niamh attended the Berlin Special Olympics in June following a substantial fundraising effort.

Reflecting on her 20 years of volunteering, she says it’s been “amazing” – although the time has flown!

“It’s been the best thing I’ve ever done by far. You see new people coming through all the time but you also see the athletes progressing and doing unbelievably well. They’re doing sports that I wouldn’t even think of doing!

“Particularly me, for when I’m fundraising, I recommend people to go and see them, to say this is why I fundraise and why you give me money and this is the benefit of it, that these athletes are recognised.”

While Niamh isn’t doing any fundraising this year, she hopes to keep going in the future.

“I think people are safe to walk on the same side of the street as me this time!” she laughed. “I’d love to go to the Winter Games in Italy this time next year.”

A keen supporter and advocate for those with special needs, Niamh will also be marking World Down Syndrome Day with an event on March 21.

‘Rock Your Socks Off’ will be held from 12pm to 2pm in Dobbin Street Community Centre and promises to be a day of fun that raises awareness and celebrates the diversity and contribution of people with Down Syndrome to our society.

There’ll be food, games and music from local band the Orchard Ukes.

Everyone’s asked to come in odd socks for the ‘odd sock parade’.

Said Niamh: “The odd socks idea is that everyone’s different but everyone’s the same. There are all different kinds of socks but they’re still socks.”

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