Long-standing Special Olympics Sandwell Chair Norma Hyde has been recognised for her support and dedication to providing sporting opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities, by being awarded a British Empire Medal in the King’s Birthday Honours List.

Norma began actively volunteering at Special Olympics Sandwell, which provides multiple inclusive sporting opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities, in 1983. She was subsequently appointed Chair in 2000 and has supported the journeys of many local athletes in her 41 years at the club.

“It’s a great honour to be nominated, let alone be awarded such a prestigious accolade as the British Empire Medal,” said Norma.

“It’s so rewarding to be part of the Special Olympics movement. The sessions mean so much to our athletes and I’ve witnessed such amazing transformations from them over the years, not just in their sporting abilities but in their day-to-day lives.
By Norma Hyde, Special Olympics Sandwell

“Our three sessions are often the highlights of the week for our athletes, and some of them would feel lonely and isolated without the chance to play sports with their friends. Alongside my fellow club volunteers, I’m very proud to be able to make a difference and I still thoroughly enjoy every session that we host.”

Special Olympics Sandwell runs sessions every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday night in sports, including swimming, badminton, cricket, basketball, boccia, new age kurling and more, at local venues with more than 50 athletes registered as club members, aged between 13 and 67.

In 2022 the club was awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, which is the highest award a local voluntary group can receive in the UK and is equivalent to an MBE. As a result, Norma and her husband Ken, who is also a Special Olympics Sandwell volunteer, were invited to the King’s first garden party at Buckingham Palace last summer.

Laura Baxter MBE, Chief Executive of Special Olympics Great Britain, said: “Norma has been such a pivotal member of the Special Olympics movement for many years and we’re so pleased to see her hard work and dedication recognised through a British Empire Medal.

“She’s given so much to Special Olympics Sandwell for more than 40 years, which goes well beyond arranging and delivering the three sports sessions each week. Multiple sporting competitions have been staged in Sandwell over the years and she’s taken athletes across the country to participate in national and regional competitions. However, more than anything Norma has helped change lives and we’re very grateful for everything that she continues to do for the Special Olympics movement.”

Special Olympics GB uses the power of sport to transform the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, providing regular training and competitions. Operating in England, Scotland and Wales, the charity has more than 6,600 athletes benefitting from opportunities in 27 different sports, which are delivered by a devoted team of 3,800 volunteers.

Special Olympics Sandwell weekly sessions

  • Tuesdays - Badminton, Cricket/Basketball alternate weeks, Indoor athletics in Autumn
    • 5-6pm, Hadley Stadium, Smethwick
  • Wednesday – Swimming
    • 7-7.30pm Beginners/ improvers (adults) at Sandwell Aquatics Centre
    • 30-8.30pm (Length Swimmers) at West Bromwich Leisure Centre
  • Fridays – Boccia, New Age Curling, Table Tennis
    • 30-7.30pm, West Bromwich Leisure Centre

For further details on Special Olympics Sandwell, follow its Facebook page.