Athletes, coaches, volunteers and supporters gathered in the Silverbirch Hotel for Omagh Spires Special Olympics Club annual dinner and awards ceremony.
The large contingent of 120 people reflects the growing popularity of the club and the three sports it competes in – bocce, swimming and equestrian. The event was compered by Georgina Nethery.
Rosemary McAleer, chairperson, told the gathering: “Over dinner I was speaking to a family, whose daughter affected by Autistic Spectrum Disorder, shared how the experience of horse riding has fulfilled her ambition and has given her growing confidence.
“This is the major benefit of Special Olympics for the athletes – self-confidence and self-esteem. In these times of growing uncertainty and government cutbacks an organisation like Omagh Spires provides support for individuals and families affected by learning disabilities.”
Rosemary also recognised the support of all the sponsors and funders through 2018: Asda, Supervalu, McBride’s Spar, Dalradian Gold, Omagh Downs, Arvalee School, Spar, Sarah Fyffe, Omagh County Primary School, HSBC, Edenderry Church of Ireland, Cash for Kids, Shane Donnelly (Fit for Life instructor), Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Focus, Special Olympics Ireland and family members.
Rosemary paid tribute to swimming coach, Andrew Goodwin, who was awarded Fermanagh and Omagh Disability Coach of the Year in February 2018.
The highlight of the year was the Ireland Special Olympics Games where Carla Priestly, Edel Kelly, Robbie Bell, Jarlath Mullan, Andrew Bonner, Kevin Hagan, Gavin Forsyth and Lee Mitchel did the club proud. They brought home an amazing five gold, seven silver and one bronze, medals. Best wishes were extended to Lee Mitchel who has been selected to represent Ireland in the World Special Olympic Games this year.
Rosemary also thanked both coaches and volunteers for the amazing work that they undertake creating the unique spirit that is Omagh Spires.
The awards ceremony was introduced by athlete, John Paul McCusker, who has been with the club for 10 years. After an exciting and enthusiastic prizegiving ceremony everyone went home happy with the athletes anticipating another successful year.
Swimming: Most improved: Edel Kelly and Catherine McCarroll; most inspirational: Sam Hill and Bernard Goodwin; best effort: JP McCusker and Katie Connelly, and swimmer of the year, Stephen McCaskie
Bocce: Most improved: Richard Young and Connor Cassidy; most inspirational, Kevin Hagan and Jacob Keys; best effort, Jarlath Mullan and Padraig Quinn and Bocce Player of the Year, Ellie Armstrong
Equestrian: Most improved: Ciaran Murphy; most inspirational, Robbie Bell; best effort, Cathal McLaughlin and Cliobhna McCrory; Equestrian Rider of the Year, Lee Mitchell and Athlete Leader of the Year, Joshua Gracey
Club Awards: Chairperson Shield; Andrew Bonner and Rebecca McIntyre, Club Spirit Award; Mark Nethery, Lifetime Achievement Award; Emma McAleer, Good Sportsmanship; Khadiga Moore and Gavin Forsyth
New athletes: Iona Gordon (equestrian), Cody McAleer and Seannan McCullagh (swimming), Noel Gormley (bocce and swimming)
Ten year badge: Charlene Patrick, Claire McStay, Emma Armstrong, Jarlath Mullan, Kevin Hagan and Lee Mitchell.
Volunteer Awards: Shaz Memorial Award, India Scott.
New volunteer certificates: Jackie Dinsmore, Lisa McCaul, Helene Goodwin, Maura McStay, Darragh Ward, Cathaoir Donnelly, Saoirse Donnelly, Rory Murnaghan, Keelan Flannagan, Richard Storey and Caoimhe McLaughlin.
Volunteers service certificates: Fancia McGovern (100 hours), George Goodwin (300 hours), Ciaran McNulty (300 hours) and India Scott (100 hours).