Special visit from Dawn for games

SPECIAL olympians will travel to Bendigo from across the state in an event to be opened by swimming legend Dawn Fraser.

The regional games will attract close to 100 competitors from Melbourne and regional Victoria in July.

It is the first time in more than 10 years Bendigo has staged the games.

Bendigo special olympic swimming coach Michele Bearyman-Cooper said Dawn Fraser would give the games added appeal.

"I think once the teams hear that Dawn's coming there'll be a huge response," she said. 

"There'll be about 100 athletes and then three to four carers and supporters each. It's going to be big."

The games have been renamed Games for Faith, in honour of the late Bendigo swimmer Faith Leech who was part of a gold-medal winning relay team alongside Dawn Fraser at the 1956 Olympics.

"Faith was our Special Olympics patron. She fought very hard to keep us going," Ms Bearyman-Cooper said.

She said she was particularly impressed with Dawn Fraser's response.

"We just emailed Dawn through her website and within 10 minutes she had replied saying she would come," she said.

Mandy Morrell-Webb, whose brother Shane swims for the Bendigo team, said the games would make a huge difference to athletes and their families.

"Being part of a team it's not just about the medals and stuff, Shane's really grown as a person," she said.

"He's made mates that he'll have forever."

Councillor Rod Fyffe said it would be an important event for the city.

"To have a figure like Dawn Fraser coming is great," he said. 

"The other good thing is the opportunities for athletes to be able to compete and make friends and represent their community."

Ms Bearyman-Cooper said more sponsors could still get involved in the games at Eaglehawk's Peter Krenz YMCA Leisure Centre.

She said anyone that can help support the event could contact her on 0409173656.

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