Bank of America Merrill Lynch supports Special Olympics GB’s Athlete Leadership Programme

26th April 2017

Special Olympics GB is delighted to be working with Bank of America Merrill Lynch on the launch of the new Athlete Leadership Programme giving people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to gain leadership skills and experience that can be used on and off the playing field.

The programme, the first of its kind in Europe, will see 15 Special Olympics GB athletes of all ages and abilities be mentored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch employees over a 12 month period. Athletes will also have the opportunity to experience inspirational personal development workshops on communicating effectively, working together and goal setting.


Developed in consultation with Special Olympics GB Athletes, the Athlete Leadership Programme will:

1.    Provide each athlete with the voice to express their own thoughts, concerns and ideas using their own form of communication

2.    Open doors for athletes to make meaningful contributions that shape the future of Special Olympics GB

3.    Empower Athletes to set and achieve goals that are right for them, and that contribute towards improving their health, wellbeing and employability skills


Recent research conducted by Canterbury Christchurch University (2012) showed that young people and adults with intellectual disabilities who participate in Special Olympics activity have higher self-esteem; wider social networks; more self-worth, self-care and lower stress levels.

Through the 2017 programme, mentors and athlete mentees will work together to develop professional and life skills:

•          Showcase their talents and interests, undergo training and learn new skills 

•          Take on new roles and responsibilities, on and off the sports field

•          Experience how to govern the charity and become self-advocates

•          Share their sports experience with other athletes and the broader community

•          Represent other Special Olympics athletes as public speakers or as ambassadors

•          Plan and prepare for their future, to help increase the opportunity to live independently, expand their circle of friends or find a job


Special Olympics GB athlete leaders have lined up to support the programme.

Georgina Maton said: "Athlete leadership means having a chance to spread the word about Special Olympics. It's a chance to show it's ok to be different and follow your dreams.   Having mentors from Bank of America means there are people who want to help.  It's ok to say you need help and together we can help more athletes follow their dreams."

Kiera Byland said: "It's enabling me to do so much more than I ever thought I could.  I want to raise more awareness of the Special Olympics throughout the county and how it can change people's lives.  I want to create positive memories so they can believe in themselves.  I want to share stories and make sure that the athletes have a voice, and that this voice isn’t only listened to, but is acted upon. Athlete Leadership will enable me to show if you have a dream, don’t ever give up on that dream.  You can believe and achieve.

“Having a Bank of America Mentor means someone who can guide me to make sure I understand the task. Someone who won’t  judge me on what I can’t do but what I can do.  The mentors are good role models for someone I can aspire to be.  This is an adult that I can trust and be able to share not only ideas but concerns I might have.  With any luck, I might make a new friend through this mentoring programme."

Anthony Harte, head of Community Engagement, EMEA, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said: “We are delighted support Special Olympics GB’s Athlete Leadership Programme. Building on our 30 year relationship with Special Olympics internationally, our employees are sharing their time and skills with the Athlete Leaders. This skills-share initiative will give our employees valuable experience while helping the athletes to reach their considerable potential, on and off the playing field.”

Diane Whilding of Special Olympics GB, commented: “We are delighted to have Bank of America Merrill Lynch on board supporting our Athlete Leaders. We have held our first athlete leadership event for 2017 and the team of mentors met our group of athlete leaders for the first time, they were absolutely brilliant in the way in which they engaged and supported each athlete.  I am really excited about what we can achieve together this year.  Enabling individuals to realise their potential is one of the two key strands of our 2016-20 strategy and the Athlete Leadership Programme will enable us to place athletes at the heart of all that we do, developing new ways of listening to their input, empowering them to set and achieve goals that are right for them and to take on meaningful new roles in Special Olympics and their local communities.

“Strengthening and building relationships to improve people’s lives is also intrinsic to the Special Olympics approach. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities opportunities to expand their social networks, forming lasting friendships with other athletes and between disabled and non-disabled people. Recognising athletes’ achievements supports positive outcomes for their families who can spend time together and feel proud of their loved one.

“We also work to foster a more inclusive society by highlighting ability over disability, allowing people with intellectual disability to realise their potential whilst also breaking down inaccurate and negative perceptions about intellectual disability amongst the wider community. Through this project, we will encourage a greater voice in athletes through becoming role models to other people with intellectual disabilities and educating their communities on intellectual disability and inclusion.

“With the help of Bank of America Merrill Lynch we will change the lives of people forever.”

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