By Kaye Young

The Vaughan Park Retreat Centre is a wonderful, peaceful place set above Long Bay Beach  in Auckland, nestled into rolling hills with views across bush and towards the beach. The accommodation and food was generous and excellent and it was wonderful to meet other parents who also have a very high needs son/daughter.

My son James is 23 years old has Down syndrome, Autism, Coeliac disease and is non-verbal so it is not often one meets another family whose child has the same diagnosis. For me it was lovely to be in a place where my son was not the most developmentally delayed. I was pampered and my son coped pretty well with all the changes starting with the plane flight, travel in a shuttle van, new peers, food and accommodation. Having head phones on so he could listen to his music helped a lot. When James was asked to do the rock climbing, abseiling and archery he would not participate despite the best efforts of Coen and Glen but I had not allowed James to wear his headphones. The next day he wore his headphones and did wonderful art work for 2 hours. I was amazed and now with the benefit of hindsight how many other things would he do if he could relax listening to his music while doing the activity! So both James and I learnt new things and I loved the company of other Mums/Dads who have children with similar challenges.

Thank you to Zandra and the NZDSA for organising such a great event and if it could be held again for parents with very high needs children with Down syndrome that would be fabulous!

By Coen Lammers

Eight young people from all corners of New Zealand last month enjoyed a weekend of adventure, camaraderie, arts, dancing and of course plenty of finger-licking food at the NZDSA Youth Development Camp. The young adults ranging from 18 to 32 years old were invited by the NZDSA to attend the annual at the Vaughan Park in Long Bay, north of Auckland.

NZDSA Youth Camp

The venue provided a stunning beach-side backdrop and was situated right next to the Marine Education and Recreation Centre (MREC) where the guests took part in a host of adrenaline-filled activities and where they were asked to get out of their comfort zones.

For many of the participants, the airplane ride into Auckland already provided a highlight in itself. Aside from Melissa Hoffman and Emily Leech, who only had to drive over the Harbour Bridge, the other guests flew in from far and wide. Katie Beamish from Dunedin and Invercargill’s Jacqie Glew represented the deep south, with James Young from Christchurch making up the South Island crew. Brendon Porthouse flew in from Otaki on the Kapati Coast, along with his old friend Harry Elsworth, while David Gunn represented Palmerston North.

Some of the regional neighbours knew others on the camp, but most of the participants met for the first time, and they soon bonded quickly to support each other on the different activities.

After an opening night of introductions and a fun activity experimenting with robot toys, the team really went to work on Saturday morning when the trainers at the Marine Education Centre were waiting to put the young visitors through their paces on the climbing wall. The youngsters initially explored the small climbing wall to find out about how to use their arms and legs, but many of them could not wait to get onto their climbing harnesses and onto the ropes. Girl power came to the fore at the camp as the young ladies from the South were leading the way, tackling the first climb like spiders. Inspired by Jacqui and Katie, the other more reluctant members of the team soon followed, and once they got their first taste, many of them could not wait to go up a second and third time.

The next challenge of the adventure was to abseil down the same 10-metre wall and again the women were leading the way. Some of them even stopped mid-decent to sort out their hair and pose for a photo. Standing on top of the climbing wall can be an intimidating place for anyone, even without a fear of heights, but the expert instructors at MERC managed to assist all of their young participants to slide safely down wall, even if some of them were using some unorthodox techniques.

The team and the adults assisting them during the weekend had worked up a sizeable hunger when the fantastic Rapid Relief Team arrived to prepare a delicious lunch of burgers and hot chips. The temptation was almost too big, and some of the participants initially struggled a bit with a full tummy on the archery course, which was the afternoon activity. The bows were large and the arrows were flying at rapid speed towards the target as big cheers erupted for the arrows that landed close to the bullseye.

While the young people were busy brushing up on their climbing and Robin Hood skills, the mothers were whisked away for a coffee and some shopping, and treated to a pampering session with a beauty therapist and masseuse, which some of the parents reluctantly, but gladly accepted.

Once everyone had recovered from the day’s activities, the Vaughan Park chefs put up a wonderful early Christmas dinner, which was a perfect opportunity to make new friends and share the stories of the day. As with previous camps, the participants were quickly able to get rid of their dinner calories during the traditional disco. The extended play list that represented all the Abba and Bee Gees classics, as well as the more contemporary Katy Perry and Taylor Swift repertoires, gave everyone an excuse to strut their stuff.

After all that excitement, it was not a surprise that the team were a bit more subdued on the final morning, but the arts session provided the perfect activity and produced some terrific artwork.

After the final lunch, the participants, parents and support crew said their final goodbyes, but vowed they to stay in touch to share their memories of all the adventures and new skills they experienced at Vaughan Park.

Young adults who are interested in attending the 2019 Youth Development Camp can contact Zandra Vaccarino on [email protected]

New Zealand’s delegation to the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi included 38 athletes with intellectual disabilities, five ‘Unified Partners’ (athletes without an intellectual disability), and 21 coaches, managers and support staff.    

Special Olympics group photo

The New Zealand team competed in in swimming, athletics, bocce, equestrian, basketball, bowling, powerlifting and football at the biggest sports and humanitarian event staged anywhere in the world in 2019.  

Special Olympics New Zealand Chief Executive Carolyn Young said the team was treated to an amazing three-hour Opening Ceremony that saw 6,943 athletes parade through the Zayed Sports City Stadium from more than 190 countries.  

The ceremony included a super low pass by an Etihad jet, pyrotechnics and a light show, inspiring words from Special Olympics International Chairman Tim Shriver, and video clips of founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver. 

Special Olympics

Te Awamutu swimmer Deshan Wallalavita took out gold medal in the 50m butterfly and silver medals in the 100m freestyle event.  Fellow Special Olympics Te Awamutu athletes Portia Johnson and Unity Collins claimed bronze and silver medals respectively in the 50m freestyle event.  

Special Olympics Waikato athlete Melissa Donoghue scored a bronze medal in the 100m freestyle to add to her silver in the 50m butterfly. Liam Bartley (North Otago) secured a gold medal the 50m butterfly and bronze in the 100m freestyle. 

Kelly Nathan, Liam Bartley, Deshan Wallalavita and Melissa Donoghue were all members of the 4 x50m medley relay team, which won a silver medal. 

Wellington athlete Janiece Pollock  secured two gold medals in the 100m and the Long Jump.   Wellington clubmate, Dominic Faherty won gold in the 200m and came fourth in the 400m.  Holly Jones (Thames Valley) won a silver medal in the 100m to go with her bronze in the mini-javelin.  Kyle Harpur won silver in the shot put and bronze in the mini javelin, and Matthew Westwood won a bronze medal in the long jump.   

Special Olympics

Equestrian rider Charlotte Aroa (Waikato) secured a bronze medal in the English Working Trails Level B1 and a bronze in Dressage.  All three competitors competed in the equestrian team competed in the English Equitation discipline.  Amy Batchelor (Canterbury) secured a silver medal (to go with her silver in the Dressage) and her teammate Alexander Goldsack (Bay of Islands) won a silver in Dressage.   

Special Olympics

The unified mixed football team had a tough tournament with some very competitive games and goals scored.  While unified sport is in its infancy in New Zealand it is a concept that is designed to remove barriers and increase awareness across the community of athletes with an intellectual disability.  The team unity, both on and off the field, has been a highlight for both the coaches and players and was a huge success in achieving the goals of unified sport.    

Natasha Nicholson (Manawatu) competed in the singles bocce competition with tough matches against Pakistan and Italy and managed to come home with a bronze medal!  Then competing in the unified doubles secured another bronze medal with doubles partner Barbara Duncan (Hawkes Bay). 

In a tense competition, James Wilson (Howick-Pakuranga) won four silver medals in powerlifting (squat, bench press, dead lift and overall). He said he was “proud to be second in the world”. 

In bowling, Katie McMilan (Waitakere) secured a silver medal in the singles with a total score of 355, well above her average score.  Richard Willmott (Canterbury) and David Nixon (Waikato) both came away with bronze in the men’s singles event.   

Suffering an ankle injury to their influential captain, Mark Cressingham, the New Zealand baskeball team worked hard throughout the tournament and secured fourth in their division and were delighted with the win in their final game. 

Special Olympics

New Zealand’s largest team to ever attend a World Summer Games competed with equal footing on the worlds largest stage with over 170 countries.   

The memories from the games and the events leading up to the competition will stay with these athletes for a long time, they have come home a little jaded from the travel but invigorated to get back into competition with their clubs. 

Special Olympics

Special Olympics

Special Olympics

Special Olympics

Special Olympics

Special Olympics


Jack Lewer and Rachel Oemcke were last month rewarded for their outstanding performances at the World Winter Games at the Manawatu Sport Awards.

Winter Games
Jack was named Disabled Sportsman of the Year and Rachel was named as the Disabled Sportswoman of the year in the intellectually disabled section.
Both of them competed at the World Winter Games in Austria in 2017 where Rachel claimed gold in the skiing Super G on the opening day.

The New Zealand team brought home 18 medals in total.

Winter Games

Here are the results of the New Zealand athletes:

Day one:
Rebecca Heath, Skiing Int. Super G (Div. 6) 1:59.01 Bronze; Rachel Oemcke Skiing Int. Super G (Div. 7) 2:28.32 Gold; Chris Westcott Skiing Int. Super G (Div. M4) 1:04.46 4th; Ben Blanche Skiing Int. Super G (Div. M5) 1:18.40 6th; Nathan Symister Skiing Int. Super G (Div. M11) 1:47.05 4th; Cameron Jarvis Skiing Int. Super G (Div. M12) 2:03.09 Gold; Thomas Loftus Skiing Adv. Super G (Div. M2) 1:11.43 6th.

Day two:
Jarrod Gilbert Snowboarding Advanced Super G (Div. M2) 1:15.14 Gold; Kaa Dekker Snowboarding Advanced Super G (Div. M3) 1:11.01 Bronze; Martin Joyce Snowboarding Advanced Super G (Div. M1) 2:39.89 5th.

Day Three:
Rebecca Heath Skiing Int. Giant Slalom (Div. F11) 3:55.46 Silver; Rachel Oemcke Skiing Int. Giant Slalom (Div. F12) 7:37.92 Participation; Chris Westcott Skiing Int. Giant Slalom (Div. M7) 2:16.33 Gold; Ben Blanche Skiing Int. Giant Slalom (Div. M7) 2:35.14 7th; Nathan Symister Skiing Int. Giant Slalom (Div. M13) 3:05.84 Silver; Michael Holdsworth Skiing Int. Giant Slalom (Div. M13) 3:25.99 Bronze; Cameron Jarvis Skiing Int. Giant Slalom (Div. M16) 4:58.81 Bronze; Ella Sharples Skiing Adv. Giant Slalom (Div. F5) 1:45.98 Bronze; Thomas Loftus Skiing Adv. Giant Slalom (Div. M3) 1:47.23 Silver; Jason Donovan Skiing Adv. Giant Slalom (Div. M9) 1:40.80 Silver; Kaa Dekker Snowboarding Adv. Giant Slalom (Div. M2) 2:15.77 Silver; Jarrod Gilbert Snowboarding Adv. Giant Slalom (Div. M3) 2:40.59 Bronze; Martin Joyce Snowboarding Adv. Giant Slalom (Div. M5) 4:59.29 Gold;

Day Five:
Ella Sharples Skiing Adv. Slalom (Div. F4) 1:51.65 Gold; Michael Holdsworth Skiing Int. Slalom (Div. M9) 1:55.71 Bronze; Jason Donovan Skiing Adv. Slalom (Div. M6) 1:46.81 5th.


Winter Games

Winter Games

Winter Games

We were incredibly proud to bring our 9th National Summer Games to our capital city for the very first time.  

National Summer Games

This event saw 1771 registered athletes and coaches from 43 clubs and 3 schools, 750 family and supporters and 500volunteers come together over 6 days to take part in New Zealand’s largest event for people with special capabilities. This event was 32 per cent larger than the 8th National Summer Games held in Dunedin four years ago. 

National Summer Games

We placed particular emphasis on making sure that there were no quotas in any of the 11 sports offered across our 10 venues. This meant that every athlete who qualified to attend the National Summer Games in their chosen sport was able to do so. This epitomises what Special Olympics is all about. Our youngest athlete, competing in swimming, was aged 9 and our oldest two athletes, competing in Ten Pin Bowling and lndoor Bowls, were 72! 

National Summer Games

It is part of our ethos to ensure that our athletes can compete in the best possible sports environments. The size and scale of this National Summer Games meant that we needed to use a range of high quality venues in Wellington, the Hutt Valley and Porirua. Additionally, our Equestrian competition was held at Manfeild Park in Feilding. 

National Summer Games

We are incredibly gratefuI to our amazing team of 50+volunteer clinicians who enabled the successfuI running of our healthy athletes programme for people with intellectual disabilities, which ran alongside our sports events. Free health screenings in Opening Eyes, Healthy Hearing, Fit Feet and SpeciaI Smiles, were offered to over 2,600 athletes and many were given Free prescription glasses and new hearing aids, all generously sponsored through the wonderfuI efforts of our dedicated clinicaI team.

National Summer Games

Additionally, we were able to pilot a referral system for those athletes who presented with acute health requirements so that they were able to receive the specialist care they neededto improve their health and well-being. SpeciaI Olympics offers much more than just sport! 

National Summer Games

I cannot thank our corporate and community volunteers enough for the outstanding effort they gave to support our event. Of speciaI mention were the 80+ volunteers and family supporters from Datacom’s Wellington offices who very ably led all the information technology functions for our sports events using our Games Management System. This included the development of the competition schedules and the timely recording and circulation of all sports results. Coupled with this, Datacom generously offered new ideas and innovation for continuous improvement in the Future. 

National Summer Games

National Summer Games

FMC lnsurance provided 63 staff volunteers to support the successfuI running of our Equestrian events in Feilding. Many of the FMC team had agricultural backgrounds and so they could slot into our environment with very little training. Like Datacom, the professionalism the FMC volunteers brought to our event was outstanding. Nga Tawa School not only wittingly provided horses from their Equestrian Academy for our competitions at Manfeild Park but also valuable votunteer support.  

National Summer Games

National Summer Games

Staff from Sport New Zealand, the Todd Corporation, Kiwibank and many Lions and Rotary volunteers also provided tremendous community support across all our sports. We wish to extend a huge thank you to all our volunteers who gave so willingly of their time tocensure the smooth running of our event. 

National Summer Games

We set 5 key goals at the start of this event and I am very pleased that we achieved them all. Namely: 

  • To deliver an outstanding event in full, on time and on budget; 
  • To celebrate the outstanding achievements and sporting successes of our participating athtetes; 
  • To further progress our desire to build positive awareness and understanding across New Zealand of the meaning and purpose of Special Olympics. 
  • Through our event change public attitudes and build new community support for people with intellectual disabilities 
  • To leave a very positive Special Olympics legacy within the greater Wellington region and in Feilding for many years to come.

National Summer Games

This was my 3rd National Summer Games and each time I encourage our team to aim for the stars. There is no better environment in my view that demonstrates what true sportsmanship is about. Showcasing and celebrating sporting success is a core aim but what will be more important will be the Fun, Friendship and camaraderie developed through sport, not only during Games Week but over a lifetime. 

National Summer Games

I wish to extend very special thanks to our extremely dedicated coaches, sports officials and volunteers who worked tirelessly with our athletes at community level to prepare them all so well for this event. Each person in the collective team played an important part behind the scenes in our Clubs and schools, from fundraising through to preparation of uniforms, travel and pastoral care. To the Families and care givers, a special thank you for your support. Our very grateful thanks to our incredible sponsors, suppliers and supporters who have provided in kind and investment support. We cannot run events of this size and scale without your ongoing commitment.  

National Summer Games

National Summer Games

And finally to my staff and our contracted team who went beyond the call of duty to deliver our best National Summer Games on record. I am buoyed by the exceptional warmth and hospitality that the host communities have shown to us every step of the way.  When we chose Wellington for our 9th National Summer Games, I knew this region would do us proud and there is absolutely no doubt that it delivered in spades to make this such a memorable experience for everyone involved. Thank you! 

Kathy Gibson 







National Summer Games

By Gabrielle Salmon

My name is Gabrielle Salmon and this year I competed in the Down Syndrome World Championships.

Rhythic gymnastics is a form of gymnastics emphasizing dance like rhythmic routines.

During my routine I use a ball, a hoop, a ribbon and two clubs.

I am practising Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays in Sacred Heart School at Orakei, and Tuesdays during lunch times at Baradene School. So I am practising 4 times a week.

At practice, I run for 5 laps and do stretches to music for warm up. I work on the difficult parts of my routines eg: balances. But every lesson I practise with my hoop, ribbon, ball and clubs.

On the Thursday before the holidays, I went to my school Rhythmic Gymnastic competition at Bruce Pulman Park.

Two months ago, I won this medal in Counties Manukau Gymnastics competition.

I left for Germany on the 30th of June and came back on the 13th of July. We took a plane to Germany. First we stopped at Bali Airport. Then we took another plane to Dubai and a last plane to Frankfurt. We finished our trip by taking a train to Boppard. That was a long trip!

Hannah, my coach, and Mum came with me.

We did lots of fun things before the competition, like visiting Cologne Cathedral and the Markberg Castle.

I took part in my Rhythmic Gymnastics Competition in Bochum.

I won four gold medals for my events and another gold medal for overall winner.

My leotard was black, white and skin colour.

On our way home we visited Amsterdam where we went to the Anne Frank House, the Royal Palace and the canals.

I was proud representing New Zealand and made lots of new friends from other countries.

Down Right  

Roseanne develops own photography business 

By Dave Nicholl 


An Invercargill woman  has turned her passion for photography into a business. 

Roseanne  Zyskowski, who has Down syndrome,  has put 101 photos of her  favourite  places throughout  Invercargill  into a calendar. 

Zyskowski, who has been a photographer for a year now,  has taken pictures of  the Reading Cinemas, Queens Park, Thompsons bush  as well as her own backyard. 

The most difficult part of the project was  getting  motivated on some days but with the help of family,  friends  and support  workers  she got it finished,  Zyskowski said. 

Her mother Clare  developed the idea after  attending  a  social enterprise  workshop held in  Invercargill  in November. 

The initiative was  run by the  Ākina  Foundation with the support of  the Community Trust of Southland, Venture Southland  and the  Southland Regional Development  Strategy group. 

The idea was to give Roseanne a way in which she could use her passion for photography to support herself. 

“When people hear the  word  ’syndrome’ the  story  they have in their head might be quite different to the way a lot of young people with Down syndrome are growing up and developing.” 

The vision  she developed at the workshop was to change the story around people  living  with down  syndrome and  give  them the  opportunity to stand on their own feet. 

Included on the back of the calendar was a quote “No disability, only people,” that was designed to encourage others that those living with disabilities  are just  normal people in the community. 

The hope was that by showing Roseanne how she could develop her passion for photography, she could turn it  in to  a microbusiness. 

“She can actually take her  photography and do something with it.” 

If the business did not succeed it would still be a valuable learning opportunity for  Roseanne, Clare said. 

Each  photo had a story or a person behind it,  Roseanne said. 

She is selling the calendars for $22 


Rosanne Zyskowski with her calendar

Kavinda Herath/Stuff 

Copyright: Southland Times 

Interview with Peter Rees for Down Write Brilliant

Chat 21’s roving reporter Andrew Oswin interviewed Peter Rees, a young man with Down syndrome from Christchurch, about his job.


What is it you like doing at your job at Pomeroy’s?

Serving out the food and the drinks to the customers.


When did you start working at Pomeroy’s?

Ever since before the earthquakes.


Where is Pomeroy’s?

Pomeroy’s is located on the corner of Kilmore Street and Fitzgerald Avenue.


Why is it important for people with Down syndrome to get paid work?

It is very important because it is a major part of someone’s life.

How did you get the job at Pomeroy’s?

Well it’s a very funny story, actually. One day, Dad and I went to the pub and had a few drinks. But the beer that I had was very strong. It was called Epic Armageddon, and I got a bit drunk, and I walked up to the owner of the pub and I asked for a job and I got the job.

Peter Rees at Pomeroys

I love working at my pre-school

by Hannah Proctor


About three years ago, when I was still at school, I was given an opportunity to try work experience in a pre-school, Footsteps Christan Pre-School, in Christchurch.

My teacher aide came with me to help me twice a week until I was good enough to do my jobs on my own. Then I was able to leave school and go to work there by myself.

I have a uniform and a special name badge.

I drive with my Mum to her work, and then I walk the rest of the way by myself to get to the pre-school.

My jobs are getting the morning tea plates and drinks ready for the children and doing the dishes afterwards. I also get things ready for the children for lunch time as well.

I enjoy playing with the children too, and I love working with the teachers.

Last year they asked me to work another day, so now I work three mornings a week.

They pay me now too. I feel happy to have a paid job. I like spending my money.

The teachers say they love having me working there.

They’re very kind and they give me lots of hugs.

I love my job.

Hannah arriving at work



By Rebecca Moore/STUFF


Flynn Laker is  putting his business hat on, or socks more like it.

At 14-years-old Flynn is learning what it takes to run his own business as well as giving back to causes close to his heart. He has Down  syndrome but is not letting it hold him back from fulfilling his dream of being the boss of a business.

Flynn Laker, 14, sells socks at his popup store at Shelley E Coutts Dance Academy on Tuesday.

With his cousins Nick and Georgia Popham, and his sister Meg Laker, 16, they set up the business Flynn’s Sox.

As well as learning the skills of what it takes to be a businessman, $1 from every sale will go to the Southland Down Syndrome Support Group in Southland.

The launch was aligned with  World Down Syndrome Day on Wednesday, which was why he chose the group as his first charity.

In the future he will donate the money to other charities who have helped him, including Riding for the Disabled and Conductive Education.

When asked about the importance of the business, the first thing Flynn mentioned was supporting charity.

“It’s really positive … the reason we got it is because we need the money for [people with Down syndrome],” he said.

Money will initially go towards helping support people in the region with the condition, then other charities.

On the opening day on Monday more than 200 pairs of socks were sold.

Flynn’s favourite socks were the yellow ones with squiggles – which he called scrambled eggs – and the hot air balloon ones.

However, he picked out all of the many styles of  socks and comes up with quotes to put on tags for each online sale.

Some slogans read “you are the bees knees” and “man you’re going to look cool in my socks”.

Flynn’s mum Tracey Laker said the business was not a lifelong income for him, but starting business was for him to learn the skills of the business and working hard.
“Nothing ever  happens if you don’t put the work in,” she said.

“It’s great to actually help him fulfil  his dream and understand business. It’s wonderful. He’s so lucky that his cousins have been through university and see that he has potential.”

From the moment he was born the family decided he would not be held back by the condition.

“Ever since Flynn was born our philosophy was to support him to be the best he can be and be independent in the future. Children and adults with Down  syndrome have no limit on what they can do. They can be as successful as anyone else.”

The socks were in funky patterns to celebrate difference, she said. “People just love supporting the concept of helping out Flynn in business.”

- Stuff