12th February 2018

The sense of giving, civic pride and community spirit our Special Olympics GB volunteers bring to our organisation is immense. This story - about giving time to others who need it - is a great way to start the week!

Following over 20 years incredible service to Special Olympics GB as a longstanding and dedicated volunteer, the South East of England’s Veronica (Ronnie) Smith is retiring.

Ronnie’s dedication and contribution to the charity and people with learning disability has been immeasurable.

Modest Ronnie, as ever, can just be seen in this picture. It was taken in November 2015 when her #SOGB Boccia & Carpet Bowls athletes were awarded the Club Award at the Sports For All Awards evening.

Ronnie is standing directly behind the gentleman in the fawn jumper (third from left). As Ronnie told us 'I don't have many pictures, as I am normally the one behind the camera!'

Ronnie said of her time with Special Olympics: “In 1986 I began working full time with people of all ages with learning disability at Hastings & Bexhill Mencap Open Door day centre and two years later became manager.

“My association with Special Olympics GB started in 1998 through a connection with the East Sussex Sports Association through a chap called ‘Digger’.

“I saw that there were sporting opportunities for our day centre members with learning disability and one of my first roles was to take two Special Olympics athletes to the National Games in 2001.

“I accompanied Neil and Ronald in athletics to that National Games in Cardiff and they were able to achieve to a high standard. It was a very special experience and I was hooked immediately.

“Through the day service, we participated in athletics, short mat bowls and badminton with Special Olympics in the area.

“We then went from strength to strength and soon the Hastings & Rother Special Olympics club started

“In my 20 years I have held various roles which include Vice-Chair & Chair of the Special Olympics GB South East Region, coach, volunteer, assistant coach, family support at the European Games and helping to lead Hastings & Rother club for many years.

“We have had nearly 300 Special Olympics GB athletes at our club.

“I have attended every National Games since 2001 in various roles, including the Sheffield Games last summer.

“In 2005 I was the Head of Delegation for the South East Region at the National Games. It was hard work but an absolutely awesome experience.

“I also operated as a badminton coach for the pre-World Games in Dublin.

“One of the many things I love about Special Olympics GB is that athletes can compete in their own right at their own level. It is a wonderful thing to see.

“Over 20 years, I have been connected to hundreds of Special Olympics athletes in the South East region.

“It has been a life changing experience being part of Special Olympics. I have created so many lifelong friends.

“It was a hard decision to retire as I have loved being part of the Special Olympics. I have so many very special memories!

“I will continue to keep up with all Special Olympics GB news via social media and the website.”

Thank you, Ronnie, from all of our athletes and the entire Special Olympics family for your invaluable contribution over two decades.

Your contribution, Ronnie, will not be forgotten!

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