To celebrate the start of National Volunteers' Week, when we celebrate the incredible impact the volunteers make across the country, we wanted to tell the story of Alex Williams' amazing journey with Special Olympics GB.
My journey with Special Olympics GB began in 2004.
I’m now retired but I had a long career in teaching, initially as a PE teacher.
However, when I had a family we moved from London to Wales and I started working in special education at Ysgol Heol Goffa in Llanelli.
We had a ski group for the children down at the local slope in Pembrey and, as a skier myself, I got involved in the weekly sessions and school ski trips.
One week we were approached by Special Olympics GB about sending a school team to 2005 National Summer Games in Glasgow and that’s how the journey began for me as a volunteer.
Glasgow was incredible; I was just blown away by the impact that an event like this could have. I went into it very much aware of what the athletes could achieve, because I had seen them in PE at school and skiing on the dry slopes. It was the reaction of the families that stood out the most to me.
I remember one mother was in tears of joy. Since an early age she had been told that her child would not really achieve anything in life because of stereotyping of their intellectual disability, yet there she was standing proudly on a podium being presented with a silver medal for the standing long jump.
There were multiple cases of that that I saw amongst the parents in Glasgow, yet the athletes took it it in their stride and were just having fun competing and making friends.
After Glasgow, we got more involved in the winter sports programme and I have volunteered at every national and world Winter Games since.
I had the honour of being Team Special Olympics GB Assistant Head of Delegation at the Pyeongchang (South Korea) 2013 World Winer Games and then Head of Delegation at Graz & Schladming (Austria) 2017.
Every moment is an incredibly special with Special Olympics GB because it gives athletes a chance to do what many of us take for granted. Everyone can compete but, more importantly, take part whether that’s completing a race, performing a standing long jump, or balancing on a beam.
There are so many great memories that I have made since being part of Special Olympics GB. Watching a novice race can be the most rewarding experience because you have seen them work so hard and often overcome fears to achieve something that they have never done before. Seeing the smile light up their faces afterwards reinforces exactly why we get involved as volunteers.
I’m still volunteering at Ysgol Heol Goffa ski club and try to get along to as many Tuesday afternoon sessions as I can. However, my volunteering work has expanded more to the administrative side in recent times with Special Olympics West Wales and as interim Chair of Special Olympics Wales.
My main work is in communicating to the clubs, making sure meetings are set and minutes are subsequently written and shared.
We lost a few clubs during the pandemic, but I’m trying to support the network to see how we can develop in Wales and recruit more athletes and volunteers.
I love the challenge but I would like give more time more support to the ski group in time.
Interacting with the athletes, hearing their stories and supporting their journey is what I love doing the most.