Latest on Family Programme and Young Athletes across the Region

Young Athletes in France prepare for Demonstration at Pilot Launch        

Celebrity Audience

Special Olympics France is preparing to launch a Young Athletes Pilot Project to take place on January 14th at La Roseraie, Paris.
The launch will include a demonstration by 16-18 young Special Olympics athletes between the ages of four and seven and is expected to be well attended by those involved in the disability field in France as well as Russian philanthropist and model Natalia Vodianova.

The children and staff have been training since October in preparation for the demonstration.  The event will be used to showcase the Young Athletes programme and to make plans for it’s implementation in the other regions of France.

“The children have been training for the last two months and have been responding very well to the range of activities. The launch of the programme at La Roseraie will be a wonderful occasion to bring the families and community together.” Christophe Boissard, Programme Coordinator, SO France.

Special Olympics Great Britain launch new Young Athletes site

A young Special Olympics Great Britain athlete enjoying the class.

The Young Athletes programme is to begin in the new region of Sandwell in Great Britain. The new group which will also serve the West Midlands, will provide a structured play programme for children aged 2-7 with intellectual disabilities. The children involved in the programme are part of the Ups and Downs group which provides support and education to families and individuals with Down syndrome.

This week the group including parents, volunteers and children got together at Portway Leisure Centre to learn more about the programme. The details of the programme were presented by Mo Clarke, Young Athletes coordinator from Special Olympics Europe Eurasia, followed by a practical session led by Dr. Niamh Reilly from the University of Derby. Group leader Norma Freeman is very excited to begin: “ It will be wonderful to bring this amazing programme to the Sandwell & West Midlands area and we are very eager to get started. The programme will provide a consistent training programme for the children in a fun-filled environment”.  

The project which will begin in the New Year has been kindly supported by Mattel Children’s Foundation.

YA Success in Lithuania

YA Family Summer Camp which took place on 13 - 15 September in Palanga, Lithuania.

Special Olympics Lithuania began the Young Athletes (YA) programme in December 2012 thanks to funding from the Samuel Family Foundation. It began initially in kindergarten schools in the cities of Kaunus and Vilnius. This pilot project took place over 12 months and in that time they registered 150 new young athletes, exceeding their original target of 50. The project also involved 50 new family members.

In March and April 2013 Young Athletes coordinator Ausra Kriskovieciene and Sports Director Dovile Sertvytiene organised a conference in the new regions of Utena and Panevezys where they presented the YA programme to kindergartens, physiotherapists, educators and physical education teachers who work with people with intellectual disabilities.

To sustain the programme, Ausra began approaching potential sponsors and partners to seek support for the programme going forward. By April 2013 they had successfully secured two partnerships. The first partnership was with sports equipment suppliers UAB Gudragalvis who will provide discounted YA equipment. The Lithuanian Regional Department of Education formed the second partnership with Special Olympics Lithuania and resulted in presentations of the YA programme to regional education centres throughout the country.

As the new school year began in September this year, the YA programme was implemented in 20 new schools and institutions across Lithuania. This progress in such a small space of time is a remarkable achievement for Special Olympics Lithuania and is a true reflection of their hard work and commitment to the Young Athletes programme.

YA Evaluation in Romania

Young Athletes demonstration in Bucharest

Congratulations to Special Olympics Romania on the completion of their Young Athletes (YA) programme research study. Funding from the Samuel Family Foundation supported the project which was carried out in collaboration with the National University Of Physical Education and Sports in Bucharest.

Young Athletes & Family coordinator Roxana Ossian along with professor Aura Bota from the University attended a seminar in Washington DC in October 2012 which focussed on research and evaluation of the Young Athletes programme.

Initial evaluation took place at the university in early February involving 32 children aged 2-7. The level of YA abilities were recorded, to be compared with results at the end of the project. Teachers, students, physical educations teachers, psychologists and parents were all involved in the study. The specific YA training took place over three and a half months in four different regions in Romania.  A special focus was made on the importance of regular attendance at the training sessions.

Presentations about the Young Athletes and Family Support Network programmes were given to parents of the Young Athletes. They received detailed information on how to organise YA trainings and how to use the equipment at home. They were also shown how to adapt the exercises from the lesson plans according to the level of the children’s abilities. 

Final evaluation was carried out at the university in early June. The children involved in the study had shown a significant increase in motor and cognitive development compared to the initial testing in February. Test results were gathered and submitted to the University Of Boston, Massachusetts where they will be combined with results from our other regions. Detailed results and evaluation will be published next year.  


World Disability Union

First General Assembly of the World Disability Union in progress, Istanbul April 6th - 7th 2013

During the First General Assembly of the World Disability Union (WDU), held in Istanbul April 6th - 7th, Special Olympics Malta has been approved as a Member of the WDU, as a result of this membership Malta has also been approved as a Member State in the WDU.

Malta was represented by Mrs Simone Attard, Family Co-ordinator  of  Special Olympics Malta. Simone is also the current Global Family Leader for the Special Olympics Europe Eurasia Region.

During the First General Assembly, Simone presented to the delegates from 65 different countries and 6 continents her presentation regarding the rights for persons with intellectual disability.

After her presentation Simone Attard was appointed to serve as a member of the Advisory Board for WDU and also was elected to serve as a member to the Commision of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Research and Strategy Development within the WDU.

With these International Appointments, Malta will have a leading role in the setting up of Universal Standards and Policies for Persons with Disabilities.

New Global Family Leader

Simone Attard (second from left) at the Global Family Leader Summit, PyeongChang 2013 Games.

We are delighted to welcome Simone Attard from Special Olympics Malta as our new Global Family Leader for the SOEE region. Simone recently attended the Global Family Leader Summit during the World Winter Games in Korea where she was officially appointed.

The Global Family Leader Programme seeks to motivate and activate family members to be fully engaged as community builders and to support the expansion of the Young Athletes programme by 100% in every region by 2015.

Simone is an integral part of the Special Olympics Malta team and is very involved with their Healthy Athlete Programme, in particular during the National Games in 2012. She is also involved with family outreach and the Young Athletes Programme.

Welcome Simone from the Special Olympics family.

Sad Passing of Jozef Kwiotek

Jozef Kwiotek will be deeply missed by all at Special Olympics.

We are deeply saddened by the loss of Jozef Kwiotek, Family Programme leader for Special Olympics Poland.  Jozef passed away earlier this month on Monday 11th of February following a short battle with cancer. Jozef had amazing optimism, inner strength and life wisdom; he will be missed very much.  



Jozef was involved with Special Olympics Poland for over 20 years and was a wonderful ambassador for the movement.  He was the true “heart” of the family programme, always happy and ready to help others in any way he could.


This will be a huge loss for Special Olympics and for all who knew him.  He is survived by his wife Grazyna and sons Slawek and Mariusz.


Rest in Peace Jozef.