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'It was wonderful to be a part of something so special. You got a sense of achievement'

BECOMING a host family for special athletes from Barbados has immersed the Stapleton family from Portarlington in Special Olympics ever since.

JJ Stapleton and his wife Corinna took two athletes and a coach into their home for the duration of the Games.

Portarlington was twinned with Barbados and families around the town hosted about 35 athletes with their coaches.

Said JJ: "We were at the opening and the closing ceremonies in Croke Park. It was spectacular, I've never witnessed anything like it."

He remembers the night the group arrived and how the athletes, coaches and host families all had a big meal together.

"There were events arranged every night in the town. When they took part in the competitions we were there cheering them on. It was brilliant".

When the Games ended the Stapletons got a suprise present. "About a month after, the coach sent me the yellow jacket he had worn at the Games".

JJ says it was a wonderful "just to be part of something special in Ireland at that time. You got a sense of achievement out of it."

However, they have continued their links with Special Olympics.

JJ's daughters Megan and Kayleigh became volunteers at the Special Olympics Club in the town, which is thriving.

For JJ the best memories were "being at the competitions and seeing that sense of achievement among the athletes.

"When they come out they're all winners."


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