Manawatu’s Arianna Ashworth was one of hundreds of Kiwis who traded their day jobs to join volunteers from across the district supporting the Special Olympics New Zealand National Summer Games.
The Games were held across 10 venues in Wellington and Manawatu last week, with more than 600 volunteers. Ashworth supported the equestrian competition at Manfeild Park in Feilding. Riders took part in four divisions: Equitation, Dressage, English Equitation, and Working Trails.
“It was really nice to be able to give back and be involved. It’s something I haven’t done before and I was keen to help out and find out more about the Special Olympics and what it means to the athletes and their families.”
Ashworth is a rural consultant with FMG Insurance, which helped out with 63 employees volunteering and was also the principal partner for the equestrian competition. The insurer provides its staff with an annual ‘give back day’ to use to support the community and Ashworth decided to use hers in support of Special Olympics New Zealand.
“My young daughter is a keen horse rider and I like horses so the equine side of things was quite appealing,” she said.
Her role at Manfeild was in the stables, mucking out, grooming the horses and walking them to the outdoor arena to assist some of the 39 Special Olympics equestrians competing at the event.
Special Olympics chief executive Kathy Gibson said the support of volunteers vastly improved the experience of the athletes, families and supporters involved in the Games and made the whole event possible.
“Without the generous support of passionate volunteers like Arianna the Games just wouldn’t be possible,” she said.
Gibson said during the games athletes achieved some outstanding results “and the looks on their faces regarding their experiences in the capital say it all”.
“We have been supported by the most incredible sponsors and we cannot thank them enough. From the Sport NZ, Datacom and FMG corporate volunteers through to the suppliers of our horses, Lions and Rotary members and our wonderful team of volunteer clinicians, the generosity of the support has been so much more than we expected.
“They say Wellington is the event capital of NZ and this community has turned it on for our Special Olympics community in spades. While the beautiful weather played a huge part, it has been the warmth and kindness shown that has really made this week special for us.”
Held every four years, the Special Olympics New Zealand National Summer Games is the largest event in New Zealand for athletes with intellectual disabilities. More than 1250 athletes participated in this year’s Games, in swimming, athletics, basketball, bocce, bowling, equestrian, football, golf, indoor bowls, table tennis and powerlifting.