Bendigo Regional YMCA have thrown their support behind Bendigo's Special Olympics swim team.
Chief executive Michael Bailey said this morning the YMCA would provide buses to get the team to and from Melbourne, as well as new drink bottles and goggles.
"It’s something we felt that we could support and should support," he said.
"They're representing our region and I think they're going to do us proud."
The group of intellectually disabled athletes, the Bendigo Barracudas, are in training for next month’s Summer Olympics in Melbourne.
Most of the swimmers have been preparing for the meet for a number of years. Head coach Michele Bearryman-Cooper has spent more than 30 hours a week supervising their swimming practise at the Peter Krenz Memorial Centre.
Ms Bearryman-Cooper said the athletes had recently been given their own uniforms and bathers and were excited about the opportunity to represent the region.
“They’re proud to belong to something,” she said.
“A lot of them have said this year they don’t want to go on holidays because they have training. That’s how important it is to them.”
She said the Summer Olympics state titles would be one of the most important meets in the 25 years Bendigo has fielded a team, with athletes getting the chance to join the national team in the Asia Pacific Games and World Games.
She said the event would also be a chance to break some of the stigmas attached to people with intellectual disabilities, and to compete in the sport they love.
“They have very low confidence in their abilities and themselves, and low social skills,” she said.
“But to stand up and say they belong in this athletics club, you can’t underestimate how important that is.”
As part of their preparation, the club is hoping for any assistance in getting team banners for the event, and transport to and from Melbourne.
With 14 athletes and four support adults going to the games, Ms Bearryman-Cooper said there was an “awful lot of organising involved”.
She said the group would welcome any help organising a vehicle to get there, as well as training equipment such as kickboards, goggles and drink bottles.
“It’s a big operation. We’re always growing. We’ve had three new members starting in the last week, and another one this week,” Ms Bearryman-Cooper said. The state Summer Olympic Games will be held in Melbourne on March 23–24.
To lend support to the team, email Michele Bearryman-Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org