August 2020 Fanletter

Kia ora koutou katoa! 👋

It’s great to see everyone getting back to training! and Ka pai (well done) to all our clubs for following our Covid-19 protocols and working to keep us all stay safe and healthy!

Check out the latest from the Special Olympics New Zealand community, including:

  • CEO Carolyn Young talks health protocols and clubs getting back to training
  • Congratulations to North Canterbury club’s first ever basketball training!
  • Grace Payne tells her story of acceptance and pride through sport
  • A look into our health leaders in training
  • See some great club highlights from June and July

Read on for the full articles or check out our compact Fanletter

Back to training and preparing for the future

By Carolyn Young, Special Olympics New Zealand CEO

Tēnā koutou katoa,

I’m feeling very fortunate that in New Zealand we have managed to fight the initial threat of COVID-19 and, after a relatively short period of lock down, are now pretty much back to normal. 

While we can enjoy the freedom that this has given us, we do need to be prepared for further changes in the future at short notice.

Its been so great to see so many clubs back in action following the lock-down.  I hope that you have been able to get full use out of your Infrared Thermometers and they are helping you keep everyone safe and identify if anyone is unwell and send them home to recover.

Special thank you to the Holdsworth Charitable Trust for funding the thermometers to support our athletes and volunteers.

Thank you to all the clubs for completing the contact tracing protocols and the initial work that was necessary to get these forms out to every club. I know everyone will be delighted that the contact tracing information will form the base information for census requirements, which will significantly reduce census requirements at the end of the year.

Now that we are back at training and competition starts in three weeks, we are all starting to focus on next year’s National Summer Games (NSG) in Hamilton.

Did you catch the announcement for the dates of the NSG?

8 – 12 December 2021! 

The Opening Ceremony will be held on the afternoon of Wednesday 8th December with the Closing Ceremony and disco held on the evening of 12th December. 

In July we celebrated 500 days to go until the games and produced a limited-edition t-shirt and hoodie, which flew off the shelves. If you received a t-shirt or hoodie, we’d love to see some photos.

Keep an eye out on the NSG website for further merchandise later this year to mark the year to go milestone.  A new feature on the NSG website is a countdown, at the time of writing this we have 488 days, 9 hours and 45 minutes until the opening ceremony!

I hope that you are enjoying being back at training. Keep up the contact tracing, hand hygiene and the stories coming in on what you have been up to, we love hearing from everyone. Good luck for those attending events in September.

Carolyn Young
Chief Executive

North Canterbury Special Olympics holds joyful first basketball training🏀

On June 16th twelve keen athletes turned up for North Canterbury Special Olympics’ first ever basketball training.

Watched on by family and friends, the athletes enjoyed a fantastic first session lead by their  coaches and volunteers.

In order to make this night happen there were many months of preparation and planning, including three taster sessions held in late 2019 and early 2020 that gained an amazing response from athletes.

Many athletes in the team are already well-experienced at basketball, with many having played in the weekly basketball competitions at Rangiora High School, which are run every year in term three by Graeme Bain from SONZ, so it has been a smooth transition for the athletes and club.

Team manager Di Moloney has loved seeing the athletes’ enthusiasm saying,

“Our Athletes were very excited to finally start training and we are having a lot of fun so far under the guidance of our very positive and encouraging volunteers and coaches.”

Along with being well-supported by two head coaches and a team of five volunteers, their sponsor, Ideal Foundation, has been incredible in helping the team get training. As Di Moloney explains,

“The support of our sponsor Ideal Foundation (Ideal Electrical) has been amazing. Ideal Foundation have very generously funded us for basketball uniforms and basketball equipment which our North Canterbury athletes are proudly modelling in the photos. We are extremely grateful for their support and look forward to an ongoing relationship with them, as they plan to join us at some stage to meet the Athletes and attend a Ribbon Event and trainings.”

Now almost two months later, the North Canterbury basketball team are well into their first season and are busy preparing for T1 and T2 events in September, with their sights firmly set on the National Summer Games in 2021.

Congratulations North Canterbury, we’ll be watching out for these guys on the court!

Grace Payne: A Place to Belong 💖

Written by Grace Payne, Athlete Leader Special Olympics New Zealand

My name is Grace Payne, I’m 21 years old and I have mild autism. I was severely autistic when I was diagnosed at 18 months old.

I have my mum Toni and my dad James, I have an older sister, Shannon and younger brother, Daniel who has severe learning disabilities. He is also an athlete in my Special Olympics club and he is in my basketball, football and athletics team. I also have two nieces, Morgan and Leigh, who are my sister’s daughters. I am from Auckland, New Zealand.

From what I have heard, back in the day, people with intellectual disabilities were not treated well and didn’t get the recognition they deserved. Now it is getting better but still needs improvement. As a country, we need to do more to make our society more inclusive.

Our athletes are not included in mainstream sports teams, this can cause athletes to feel isolated and their mental health to suffer as they can’t express their abilities through sport. This can also affect their family members as they are the athlete’s key pillars of support.

All my school life, I was in different schools but was based in Parkside Special School in a satellite class. I always had contact with mainstream children and even did some classes with them because I was able to do so. In Primary school, I did reading and math. In Intermediate, I did wood tech, cooking, art, drama and choir; and in High School I was in the school’s wind band where I played the clarinet. I was also in the basketball team.

In Primary school, my friends and I were lucky to not have experienced bullying from other children. I think it was because we were all so young and naive and probably did not know any better. I remember some of the children from the mainstream classes would involve us in their activities and even let us lead some of the games we played.

In Intermediate school, things were a bit different. Do not get me wrong. There were some children who were nice, they would come hang out with us and treat us no different. But there were children who didn’t treat us like everyone else, they would call us names under their breath or out loud when we walked past them and some would mock some of the things we did like jumping, flapping, and so on.

Personally, I was never physically bullied but I have had some verbal abuse. Some children have made fun of my size and have called me “pregnant”, “chubby”, “fat” and quite a few other names. About my intellectual disabilities however I have had different responses. Some children I knew well would politely ask about my autism as they were curious and wanted to get to know me better. Other children would say to me “are you from that classroom? (the satellite classroom)”, or “what is wrong with you?” I know they were just curious and when I answered them saying that I have autism, they would say “Well, you don’t look autistic, unlike this other person who looks different!”, as if people looking different is a bad thing.

In High School, I was so scared about what the students from the mainstream classes were going to think of me, but I was treated just like everyone else when I was in the school’s wind band or in the basketball team. I was treated heaps better than I was in intermediate school, but I think it was partly because our classes were quite far from the rest, so we were in our own little world.

Being a person with autism, I don’t have any physical impairments. But seeing how some children treat others with noticeable disabilities is really sad, and I think more education and awareness is needed for children with intellectual disabilities to be accepted in society. Thinking back now that I’m older, I think the reason why children teased or mocked us is because they were not educated or included in our environment at school.

How I got through all of the bullying through school was sport. During our lunch breaks, I was always doing something physical whether it was just playing tag, basketball, touch, and cricket with my friends and I think that’s when my love for sports began. I joined Special Olympics in 2010 doing ten pin bowling, in 2012 I started basketball and I’m still doing it to this day alongside powerlifting and football. Through the years, I have also tried athletics and table tennis.

With basketball I have competed in many ribbon days and regional games. I competed in the National Summer Games in 2013 in Dunedin and was going to compete in the National Summer Games in Wellington 2017. Unfortunately, six weeks prior to the games I was involved in a traffic accident on my way to school. We veered off the road, hit a ditch and rolled four to five times and landed on the side. My injuries were a fractured L1 vertebrae and lacerated liver, so it put me out of action for a few months, but now I am stronger than ever before!

I represented New Zealand in basketball at the 2019 World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi and I was the first female in New Zealand to go over to the world games for basketball. I competed in the men’s grade and our team came in 4th in the 3rd division. Going to the World Games is my biggest highlight with Special Olympics so far, it was something I never thought I would do, and it was a dream come true.

My life has changed so much since joining Special Olympics, I’ve finally found people whom I can relate to and be myself without judgment. Special Olympics is like one big family, we support and encourage each other in what we do, we bring each other up when we fall down, we welcome everyone with open arms including families, siblings and friends, and we don’t judge or discriminate against anyone.

I have grown so much as a person, my confidence has had a huge boost. I am now co-chair of the Special Olympics Asia Pacific Athlete Input Council and I feel like I now have a voice that I want to use to help other athletes find theirs, and to also educate people about who we are.  

Since being a part of Special Olympics, my family has a whole new perspective about people with intellectual disabilities and it has opened a brand new world which they wouldn’t have known or experienced. They have developed so many lifelong friendships. I have been told by many people that I have inspired them because of my disability and what I had to achieve to get to where I am today.

My hope for the future is that we will have a more inclusive and accepting society. There are people who still don’t know about us and what we can do, and my simple hope is that more people will try and understand us, our disabilities and Special Olympics.

Grace’s article was also published on Special Olympics Asia Pacific’s Human Race website.You can view it here.

SONZ Health Leaders in training to Inspire and Motivate 🍎

Our first ever Health Leaders Scot Jackson and James Wilson from the Howick-Pakuranga Club had their first training session on 30th July. Within the Special Olympics community Health Leaders are health and wellness leaders, along with being educators and role models for athletes.

We congratulated Scot and James on being selected for these roles at the start of 2020, but due to Covid-19 their training was postponed. However, throughout alert levels 4 to 2 they kept our spirits up by providing plenty of motivation and health advice to athletes via SONZ’s social media. 

We particularly loved their videos on thinking positively and keeping a strong mind.

You can head over to the SONZ Facebook Page to see all their videos.

During their training Scot and James learnt all about what it means to live a healthy life and how to educate other athletes about better habits and living healthier.

Through attending events across the Upper North Island region Scot and James will provide education to athletes on aspects of health such as portion sizes and how much sugar is in those sports drinks we love so much!

Scot and James will also be promoting healthy habits in the Fanletter and on social media, so keep your eyes open for them in the future.

As a powerlifter James understands the importance of maintaining good fitness for your sport, he’s excited to share what his knowledge and will be keeping us updated with fitness tips.

Scot enjoys eating healthy and is looking forward to sharing some good tips on how to reduce sugar in your diet, he will be providing us with regular nutrition tips and healthy recipes. 

Scot and James are our first Health Leaders and we’re proud to have them promoting good health across New Zealand. In the future we hope to roll this programme all over the country, so we have Leaders in each SONZ region. Excellent work Scot and James! We can’t wait to see you out there promoting healthy living! 

Health and People with an Intellectual Disability (ID)

Our Health Leaders are very important to improving athlete wellbeing, as because of a range of systemic challenges, including inadequate provider training and inaccessible facilities, people with ID have limited or poor access to quality health care, and have limited knowledge of sufficient health practices. As a result, people with ID experience dramatically higher rates of preventable disease, chronic pain and suffering, and premature death. Other problems people with IDs are more prone to having include

  • Being at an unhealthy weight
  • Having less control over their nutrition
  • Higher blood pressure

For the past 20 years Special Olympics has been working globally to change these statistics by focusing on two goals:

  1. Improving the health status of people with ID and
  2. Increasing access to health care and health resources for people with ID.

The Health Leader Programme is one of many ways that Special Olympics is working to reach these goals. Learn more about health and people with disabilities, along with SONZ’s Healthy Athletes initiative for the 2021 National Summer Games here

Club Highlights from June and July 🏃

Across New Zealand our 44 clubs and 5000+ athletes, not to mention our amazing volunteers and staff, got back to training with enthusiasm over June and July!

We can’t talk about every training and event held over this time, but we have compiled just a few highlights from our clubs showcasing our athletes’ incredible determination and skill. Ka pai everyone! (Well done!) 

Top Left: North Canterbury Special Olympics (Credit: Bridget Pasfield), Top Right: Howick-Pakuranga Special Olympics (Credit: Adele Adams), Bottom Left: North Canterbury Special Olympics (Credit: Jennifer Ferrier), Bottom Right: Auckland Special Olympics

North Canterbury Special Olympics took to the pools on June 15th, refreshing their breaststroke, freestyle and paddleboard skills while also enjoying fun games like ball relays and catch the coach with Coach Brent! 

Taupo Special Olympics said that they had a “Fantastic turn out for our first training on the 13th June after such a long time out of the water. Super Smiles on our athletes faces. Woohoo!”

Howick-Pakuranga and Auckland Special Olympics resumed training on the 19th July and 21st June. The athletes were thrilled to get back in the water and catch up with friends.

Left/Middle: Howick-Pakuranga Special Olympics (Adele Adams), Right: Taupo Special Olympics

On the 26th July Waitakere Special Olympics resumed ten-pin bowling training with current athletes eager to knock down those pins and new bowlers welcomed to join in the fun!

Rotorua Special Olympics were not to be kept from the bowling alley as during June and July they held several combined Tenpin Bowling sessions. Athletes worked well in teams with pins being bowled over left, right and center! 

Left/Top Middle: Waitakere Special Olympics (Credit: Donna Turtle Sarten, Jeanette Beaufoy) Top Right/Bottom Middle/Bottom Right: Rotorua Special Olympics (Credit: Stella McLeod)

Waikato Special Olympics went back to basketball training on 2nd July saying that it was “So cool to catch up and run around with friends, heaps of fun!”

On the 2nd July Greenhithe Special Olympics also held a fantastic training session. They made use of two courts to practice their dribbling, throwing and team strategy. 

Watch out on the court for these teams!

Top Row: Waikato Special Olympics, Bottom Row: Greenhithe Special Olympics

Have you heard of Whanganui Special Olympics’ new powerlifting team ‘Special Olympics Whanganui Elite Powerlifting’?. The team members include Bianca, Makayla, Daniel and Freddie, and their training session on the 6th July with Coach Sharnell showed some great strength and technique! 

Cold weather didn’t stop Howick-Pakuranga Special Olympics from practicing their athletics skills during June and July! From track to long-jump to the javelin throw, the athletes were working hard to improve their skills.

Left and right: Howick-Pakuranga Special Olympics (Credit: Kathy Bendiksen), Middle:  Whanganui Special Olympics

On the 9th July Thames Valley Special Olympics athletes were focused during their training session for the upcoming Tauranga T2 event in September. The athletes enjoyed practicing their bowling technique and hanging out with friends.

Left: Howick-Pakuranga Special Olympics (Kathy Bendiksen), Middle/Right: Thames Valley Special Olympics (Credit: Anna Walters)

Thames Valley athletes, coaches and volunteers all got together on the 20th June to have a Fun First Training day. Following a great morning playing games such as unders and overs, and team hoops, they enjoyed morning tea and a presentation on their upcoming season.

Above: Thames Valley Special Olympics (Credit: Suzie Nyika)

Well done to all our clubs for getting back to regular training while staying safe and healthy. We love seeing all your amazing work and we’re excited to see you continue training as our competition season gets closer!

Thank you to all our staff, athletes, volunteers and supporters who took these great photos!

We want to continue to showcase as many clubs and athletes as possible, so if you take any photos of Special Olympics New Zealand club trainings and events, we want to see them! Send photos to Zoe Braithwaite at or message them to 027 800 1156

From all of us at Special Olympics New Zealand, keep training and stay healthy! 

Hei konā mai, kia pai tō rā whakatā! (Goodbye for now and have a great weekend!)

Thank you to all of our wonderful partners for your continued support 💕


Skip to content