Q: With so many other sport organisations and non for profits, why did you choose Special Olympics Australia?
Matt: After volunteering with junior football clubs for 10 years in numerous roles from coach to club president I was looking for another way to contribute to our community. I had been involved a few torch run events over the years and attended Special Olympics Victoria State games. I always went away from those events seeing the joy which sport can bring to so many people regardless of ability.
I saw my role with Victoria Police and the objectives of LETR as a great vehicle to support people in the community with intellectual disability. Special Olympics Australia do such a great job, so it was an easy choice to get involved.
Q: What is your favourite Special Olympics Sport? Or what sport did you play as a kid?
Matt: I have been fortunate enough to play basketball for around 40 years now and still love and play the game.
In terms of Special Olympics sports I have a soft spot for the basketballers of course but have more recently taken a keen interest in bocce. I joined in a game of bocce recently at one of the local clubs, receiving some great advice from the athletes and coaches. In saying that I can’t say my bocce skills have improved…. yet!
Q: Is there a particular moment, memory or achievement that stands out for you?
Matt: My highlight to date has been the National Games in Adelaide last year. Taking part in over 12 torch runs with local athletes in the lead up to the games was tiring but so rewarding.
The opening ceremony brought together around 1,000 athletes from across the nation in what was such a professional and colourful production. The athletes were the stars of the show marching into the stadium looking fantastic in their state uniforms. I have never seen such a large group of people, with carers and volunteers included, beaming with so much happiness and pride.
I honestly got such a kick out of seeing the joy the games brought to the athletes. It’s moments like this which inspire me to continue my work with LETR and Special Olympics.
Q: How has Special Olympics Australia impacted your life?
Matt: Special Olympics has shown me the importance of providing sporting opportunities for people of all ages and abilities. There is no other organisation which provides such wonderful opportunities, supported of course by associated programs such as the Athlete Leadership Programs and Healthy Athletes Program, both of which LETR is proud to support.
Special Olympics athletes have been significant role models for me as they are some of the greatest teachers of tolerance. Throughout their lives nearly all have been marginalised, excluded, disrespected and discriminated against. Through all of that they keep stepping up the plate, day in and day out, with a positive ‘can-do’ attitude that the rest of our society could learn a valuable lesson from.
Q: What difference have you seen the Special Olympics movement make on athletes or family members lives?
Matt: The Special Olympics movement makes a difference to athletes and their families in so many ways. The main difference I have seen has been not just the sporting skills but the self-confidence of the athletes. From when they first participate in one of the many sports or programs offered by Special Olympics, to seeing them at subsequent events, it always astounds me how much they have grown in confidence.
Q: What would you say to someone considering volunteering for Special Olympics Australia?
Matt: Without volunteers, Special Olympics simply can’t deliver the invaluable sporting opportunities and development programs which they do. Any time that you can volunteer to help in any capacity is worthwhile.
I took on this role to help the athletes and support the clubs and Special Olympics more broadly. What I never imagined was the satisfaction I get from being involved with such a great group of people.
Q: What might someone be surprised to learn about you?
Matt: I’ve been a member of Victoria Police for over 26 years but in a previous life I was a qualified chef. Sadly, my culinary skills have lapsed.
Q: Where to from here, what’s next, what does the future look like for you?
Matt: What’s next is to continue to work hard with LETR Victoria to promote opportunity, respect and inclusion for people living with intellectual disability. LETR fundraising is increasing which gives us greater opportunity to support more Special Olympics Victoria and Special Olympics Australia programs for the benefit of the athletes.
Here at LETR we love doing the torch runs carrying the flame of hope with the athletes. There’s a lot more torch runs planned this year so look out for us. You’ll hear us chanting loudly I can guarantee you that!
Thank you, Matt!
Download the Yoinki app today and sign up as a volunteer to be part of the inclusion revolution here at Special Olympics Australia