COUNTDOWN TO #LA2015 IS ON!

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SO Irish Open 2There’s something about the beginning of June that signals bedlam.  Every single year. Anyone that works in PR and marketing will know what I’m talking about and will sympathise, with singed fingers from furious typing.

We work in a business of peaks and troughs and this, folks, is most definitely one of the peaks. It’s probably something to do with that wrapping up for summer mentality that seems to dominate most businesses. Every year, our clients (wonderful that they are), rush to get the lion’s share of their news out in the four weeks leading up to 1st July. It’s bonkers but brilliant fun – there’s never a dull moment at this time of year, that’s for sure.

But while everyone else is dreaming of winding down for the summer, I’m beginning to think about ramping up, for a very special project.

I’m privileged to be joining Team Ireland as a volunteer at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles in July and August.  Having worked with Special Olympics Ireland and Special Olympics Ulster for four years, it’s amazing to be able to give some extra and much-needed support to this great charity in what is a very important year for its athletes.

Some 88 athletes – including 12 from the Ulster region – will travel to compete on a world stage at LA2015. The athletes, who have many different intellectual disabilities, have trained for years for this opportunity, supported by Special Olympics Ireland, its coaches and volunteers.

With the full support of my MCE colleagues, I’ve raised over €5,200 since December to secure my place as a Team Ireland volunteer. It’s been a hell of a challenge but one that the whole team took on with great gusto. From bake sales to pub quizzes, Easter treats and even a marathon, it was a massive team effort and I’ve been blown away by the support of friends, family, clients, colleagues and complete strangers over the last six months.

Working as part of the media team, I will help to tell the story of the inspiring Team Ireland athletes, coaches and volunteers, live from the media centre in Los Angeles. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and one that I’m starting to get very excited about, now that it’s drawing closer.

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Last weekend saw the culmination of one piece of work we’ve been plotting for a number of months now, with Special Olympics Ireland and The European Tour as part of the build up to the World Games.

The Team Ireland golf team were invited as VIP guests of The European at The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation. Getting the opportunity to watch their heroes in action was a dream come true for this group of inspirational athletes and a fantastic boost to their preparations for LA2015.

SO Irish Open 9Jill Connery (aged 29 from Scarva Co. Armagh) and playing partner, Ursula McDonnell (aged 70 from Co. Antrim); Paul Kirrane (aged 29 from Ennis, Co. Clare) and playing partner, Patrick Rutherford (aged 72, from Co. Clare); Rosemary O’Reilly (aged 29 from Co. Meath); Margaret Carr (aged 54 from Calry, Co. Sligo) and Leo O’Brien (aged 19 from Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow) enjoyed an action packed day of golf and star-spotting.

It was absolutely wonderful (and often emotional) watching the athletes as they soaked up the atmosphere at Royal County Down.

Starting off the day on a high, Special Olympics Global Ambassador, Padraig Harrington took time out to meet the athletes ahead of teeing off, providing valuable tips to the team, who travelled from right across Ireland. Since becoming a Special Olympics Global Ambassador in May 2010, Harrington has generously donated his time and expertise to the Special Olympics movement across the world by conducting golf clinics for athletes and coaches.

And, in the biggest surprise of the day, the athletes were put through their paces by Northern Irish golfing great, Graeme McDowell in a putting competition.

It really was a magic day. The generosity and kindness of The European Tour and the professional golfers was so heartening and its impact was profound. These athletes will now continue their preparations for LA2015, feeling the support and friendship of some of the world’s best golfers.

You can watch highlights of the Team Ireland’s golfers’ visit to The Irish Open on the BBC Sport NI website here. You might even spot me in the background, cheering them on…

To find out more about how you can support Team Ireland, check out the great Support an Athlete campaign, or call John Kivlahan at Special Olympics Ulster 028 9023 9023. Keep an eye on the hashtag, #LA2015, @SOIreland and @SO_Ulster on twitter for more World Games updates.

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