A Flame of Hope visits South Taranaki
John Smailes has been involved in the Special Olympics Summer National Games for 25 years and this year he saw a first - the Flame of Hope.
‘‘This is the first time the torch has come through Ha¯ wera,’’ said Smailes, the indoor bowls coach for South Taranaki Special Olympics.
‘‘It’s really special, everyone seemed to appreciate it.’’
Last week the Flame of Hope came to Ha¯ wera as part of the the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) in which runners carried torches from each end of New Zealand to Wellington – the venue for the 2017 Special Olympics National Summer Games.
Similar in style to the Olympic torch relay, the LETR is a series of relays and fundraising events that raise awareness and money for the Special Olympics movement.
The South Taranaki athletes, their supporters, friends, family and local police officers, walked from the Ha¯wera Park Bowling Club to the water tower, with the torch, where they posed for photos and gave themselves a well-deserved clap.
Local supporters also came out of their buildings on to High St and cheered as the athletes marched past.
Kathy Gibson, the chief executive
‘‘It's a real special occasion for these guys to go away.’’ John Smailes
of Special Olympics New Zealand, said the LETR was one of the highlights of Special Olympic events.
‘‘This year we are excited that the torches will travel to all regions and clubs taking part in the National Summer Games.’’
Smailes said the South Taranaki club was taking 10 athletes and four coaches to Wellington as well as lending a bowler to Hawke’s Bay.
Smailes got involved in the Special Olympics through his daughter and he has now been involved in six national competitions, something he said was always a good time.
‘‘It’s a real special occasion for these guys to go away,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s good sportsmanship right around.’’
Gibson said that as well as raising awareness for Special Olympics in New Zealand, the LETR also helped to promote and support Special Olympics’ Athlete Leadership Programme – a programme that aims to provide athletes with the tools and experiences to become leaders in their own right and to speak for themselves.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) in Ha¯wera finished up at the water town with cheers of joy.