Northern Ireland’s first standalone Young Athletes Special Olympics Club has been launched in east Belfast.
The Titanic Tigers is a play and sport activity for children aged from four to seven with an intellectual disability.
The club was established by a group of parents of young children in east Belfast who wanted to give them the opportunity to enjoy activities in a familiar, supportive and fun environment.
Club secretary Susan Gillen, whose son Ross (4), has Downs Syndrome explained: “There was nothing in the area geared towards our children’s needs and supporting them in developing fundamental movement skills like throwing, catching, jumping and balancing so we decided to investigate setting up our own club with support from Special Olympics Ulster after attending a Young Athletes taster event.
“We are very fortunate to have 15 volunteers who have been trained to help the children have a really positive experience and we are thrilled that since launching just last month we are welcoming at least 18 children to Titanic Tigers at Knock Methodist Centre each Friday evening.”
As well as developing sporting skills, the club aims to help children learn how to communicate and interact with each other and promotes the development of learning and self-help skills.
Susan said: “The feedback from parents has been great with everyone agreed that is it a fantastic opportunity for young children with intellectual disabilities and their parents to socialise together and benefit from the support network that Special Olympics provides.
“Ross has certainly enjoyed every minute of developing his movement skills and making new friends.”
Sean Cassidy, regional director of Special Olympics Ulster, said: “We are delighted that the Titanic Tigers has proved so successful despite only being running for a short time.
“The club is a showcase of athletes of all abilities and a place where everyone is able to achieve success despite the individual daily challenges that each athlete may have to overcome.
“We will continue to support and develop this young club as they journey through the Special Olympics programme and look forward to the year ahead.”
Members of the club have set up a fundraising campaign at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/titanictigers to support the young athletes.