A Flame of Hope vis­its South Taranaki

South Taranaki Star - - PROPERTY - JANE MATTHEWS

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.

JANE MATTHEWS/STUFF

The Law En­force­ment Torch Run (LETR) in Ha¯wera fin­ished up at the wa­ter town with cheers of joy.

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