The achievements of competitors who took part in this year’s Special Olympics have been recognised at a celebration event hosted by the charity that supports them.

Hft, a national charity supporting adults with learning disabilities, was represented by 16 people at the country’s largest multi-sports event for athletes with learning disabilities. Between them they bagged an impressive five gold, eight silver and seven bronze medals and were among around 2,600 athletes of all ages and abilities who travelled to Sheffield to compete at the six day event in August.

On Wednesday 18th October competitors supported by Hft to take part in the Special Olympics were invited to a special celebration event held at Aintree Racecourse. During the event athletes from Sheffield, Leicestershire, Leeds, Bradford and Derbyshire were presented with certificates by Special Olympics Ambassador Armand Beasley. They were also given the opportunity to saddle up and have a go at horse-riding in the famous Aintree Winner’s Enclosure, supported by Riding for the Disabled.

They also took part in a tour of the racecourse and were able to explore Hft’s mobile Smarthouse, which is currently based in the Peter O’Sullevan Community Hub as part of the charity’s year-long partnership with Aintree Racecourse. The Smarthouse showcases a number of examples of personalised technologies, which can be used to support vulnerable adults to live with greater independence, choice and control, whilst keeping people safe and maintaining dignity and privacy.

Among those attending was medal winner Arvon (see image), from Sheffield, who at 63 is one of the oldest competitors in powerlifting. He took the silver in his event to add to his already impressive haul of over 80 medals and trophies from various competitions.
“I really enjoy it, and I’ve met lots of people,” he says. “I’m never giving it up!”
Jill Kirkham, Fundraising Manager, said: “At Hft we support people to live the best life possible. The Special Olympics was a unique opportunity for our athletes to develop their skills and grow in confidence as they trained for the event. Today was all about creating an opportunity to reflect and celebrate the amazing achievements of all those who took part.”

Communications Manager of Aintree Racecourse, Grant Rowley said: “It’s been an honour to welcome the competitors of the Special Olympics to the home of the Randox Health Grand National today. The riding sessions are a great opportunity to give individuals with learning disabilities the chance to enhance their skills in a unique environment. We have a fantastic relationship with Hft and the riding sessions have proven a great success amongst the participants.”

Hft currently supports over 60 people at 24 locations across Merseyside and Cheshire. Its person-centred services include residential care, supported employment and supported living at home – from a few hours a week to 24 hours a day.