An event full of happiness and competitiveness filled Mount Smart Stadium when the Vodafone Warriors NRL squad and office staff joined hundreds of students for the Special Olympics athletics day.
The players and staff helped to run events at the various stations including track, javelin, softball, long jump, standing jump and shot put.
“It was a sea of black when they (Vodafone Warriors) arrived, just an awesome sight how these huge burly men filled the arena and got involved so quickly for the time they were present,” said Special
Special Olympics New Zealand regional sport coordinator Helen Ferguson.
Vodafone Warriors Albert Vete, Solomone Kata and David Fusitu’a were especially hands-on getting involved by pushing kids in their wheelchairs for the 100-metre sprint where they met other Vodafone Warriors at the finish line.
“Seeing the players pushing the kids in their wheel chairs was priceless. They’re memories those kids will have for a long time to come,” said Ferguson.
“It truly was a good day and the feedback I received from the teachers and volunteers alike has been positive.”
All around the stadium Vodafone Warriors players and staff were getting fully involved in the action while the students had the time of their lives getting autographs, photos and selfies. Leading the way was Charlie Gubb, who was behind the microphone as a highly-enthusiastic ground announcer and commentator.
Before the players and staff left, everyone gathered for a huge team photo.
The Special Olympics New Zealand organisation offers a programme all year round providing sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Throughout New Zealand, there are more than 7000 athletes who train and compete in 14 different summer and winter sports. The organisation holds more than 200 events in 40 towns and cities around the country.
It’s the first sports organisation to provide athletes with the ability to enjoy sport through fun, friendship and team spirit far beyond physical benefits of sport. Ultimately, Special Olympics New Zealand aims to give athletes a feeling of belonging while improving their quality of life.
Smiles were plastered on faces all around and it was heart-warming for everyone to see the connection between the Vodafone Warriors and these special people.