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

By Abigail Knight

This year in April, I started my very first paid job at PHD Media, which is a large advertising company for TV, Radio and Internet and is located in Mount Eden.

I was asked to come in for an interview and I remember feeling quite confident meeting my employer as they were very friendly people. Mel from PolyEmp accompanied me to my interview and helped me with all the paper work. I was so excited to be starting work in my dream job. My position is an Office Assistant working for 4 hours, from 8:30am to 12:30pm, Monday to Friday, with lots of jobs to do.

Every morning, I sort out the morning mail, restock the snack cupboard and the tea, coffee and milk in the kitchen and tidy it up. As well as that I tidy the stationary room, IT cupboard and the meeting rooms. I also help out with Reception, refilling printer paper and putting away Countdown and stationary orders (my favourite job) and I water the plants every Friday. The PR team also call on me when some extra help is needed. One of my important jobs is making the appointments for the staff massages which we are very lucky to get at our work.

When I finish work on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, I walk to the Medi Strength Gym to do my exercises. It is really convenient for me because it is right next to my work.

Mum takes me to work in the mornings, on her way to work. After work I catch a train to New Market and then a bus to get home.

I love working at my job in PHD Media because I like the jobs that I do and it’s the type of work environment I like working in.

My colleagues I work with are very helpful and they always tell me I do an amazing job of keeping everything tidy and getting my tasks done. When I first started my job, I had a list of tasks that I had to work through. Now I don’t need the list of tasks, because I know what my jobs are and I get them done quickly, so I can add more jobs.

I feel like I have a new work family.

By Kymberlee Fernandes of Stuff

Charlize stands with her painting

She might only be 13, but one of her artworks has already earned almost $3000.

Charlize Wilson  was named the winner of the  2018 IHC Art Awards People’s Choice Award from the 400 art entries across the country.

The South Auckland Middle School student says art helps her “be herself”.

“I like doing art because it’s so much fun,” she says.

Her painting is called Looking Out from the Inside.

“The art is just a person looking outside. She is happy, she likes the view a lot,” Charlize explains.

Her award includes $1,000 in prize money, but then collected a further $1,650 after the piece was auctioned.

When Charlize found out she won, she says she  felt like “a superstar”.

Her parents say she’s been singing and dancing ever since she could walk and first started drawing and painting at eight.

She’s been surrounded by that kind of environment – music, performing arts, her dad Petia Wilson says.

“It was probably natural for her to just pick up a brush and paint. I’m really impressed and happy for her.”

The IHC Art Awards have run since 2004 and is open to all New Zealanders with an intellectual disability, age 13 or over.

Thirty of the top artworks were selected by judges Jae Kang, Tim Walker and Sarah Wilkins where the winner of the  People’s Choice category was then selected by way of online public voting.

Charlize will join her dad in his upcoming art exhibition where she will contribute some abstract art pieces. Her next work will be about a girl looking at her phone.

Her mum, Caroline, says Charlize has always been good with colours and the canvas is an opportunity for her to showcase her world.

“Because of the fact that she has Down Syndrome, she sees things quite differently,” she says.

“It’s exciting because it gives us an insight into her world, and maybe explains the colours, the strokes and the angles.”

There are plans to eventually build a collection that revolves around the theme of a girl looking through.

“It gives a different angle of the world.”

Copyright: Stuff

Becky stands with her art work

IHC Art Awards Gala Event at Shed 6 in Wellington. Photo by Mark Coote/markcoote.com

An intricately detailed drawing by Dunedin artist Becky Donovan (centre) has won the 2018 IHC Art Awards and $5000.

Becky’s piece, Cat, after Barry Cleavin, is a tribute to Christchurch-based printmaker Barry Cleavin. She used graphite to copy a Barry Cleavin image, and then experimented with erasing what she’d done. Her intricately detailed stalking cat has its skeleton visible in some places.

This is not the first time that Becky’s work has been featured as a finalist in the IHC Art Awards. Her drawing, Fashion Models, came second in 2016.

Becky works at the IDEA Services Art Space studio in Dunedin. Art Space hosts between 30 and 35 artists with an intellectual disability. Over recent years, a number of Art Space artists have been successful in the national IHC Art Awards – reaching the finals and winning top prizes.

Second prize of $2000 went to Amanda Brennan and third prize of $1000 was won by Colleen Bauer. For the third year in a row the top three prizes went to an all-female line-up of artists.

There were 428 entries in this year’s Awards. At the gala event Art Awards Ambassador Dame Denise L’Estrange-Corbet noted this resulted in a broad range of mediums. “As well as the sheer volume of artwork, I am particularly impressed by the wide variety of media and themes, showcasing the versatility and scope from the people here in this room.”

The top three prize-winners were picked out of 30 finalists nationwide and announced at Shed 6 in Wellington on Thursday 26 July. The finalists’ work was auctioned at the event, with all proceeds from the sales going solely to the artists.

We are Mrs and Mr Vaccarino

By Vinnie Vaccarino

On January 12th at St Luke’s Church in Havelock North in Hawkes Bay everything looked amazing and was ready to have perfect wedding for me and Rachel.

I had a best man Gareth Smith and a groomsman Benji Oemcke.

Rachel had three bridesmaids, our sisters Siobhan Vaccarino, Abbie Oemcke and a friend Robin Neilson. We also had three flower girls.

I was nervous standing at the altar waiting for Rachel. When I saw a perfect bride walk in with her father it was so awesome and I just started crying with tears. I said to Rachel that she was so beautiful, my princess.

The beautiful bride

We had two people, Pastor Sue Lacey and my Dad marry me and Rachel. My dad did the vows and rings and said you are husband and wife. I kissed Rachel before Dad said you can kiss the bride. My Dad said “Ok, now you can kiss the bride!” everyone laughed when I gave Rachel another kiss.

Our friend played the guitar and sang “Can you feel the love tonight” but he changed some of the words just for me and Rachel. Then we played Dancing Queen and danced out the church and all the people took lots of photos of us.

We then left in the old fancy white car and then this guy gave us a ride to Birdswood Gallery for chitchat with people and afternoon tea. We had more photos and then me and Rachel had a first dance.

Then the talented photographers Toni Larson and Jo took family photos. I did a speech then more photos and then we cut the cake.

Our friends

We then needed to go and everyone made two long rows and we walked between them and said bye. Then we drove to a huge mountain and we walked up a path for photographs.

We were tired and hungry so we had a picnic in the car before we went back to Birdswood for dancing, hanging out, speeches, dinner and more dancing.

At the end of evening we went to Porters Boutique Hotel for our honeymoon. I planned our honeymoon with lots of special things. We had two nights at the hotel in Havelock North hotel and then two days in Napier.

We did not do what I had planned because my wife got very sick. I was very, very, very sad and I phoned for help. She got better but was sick all the time while we were away and I helped to look after Rachel.

We then went back home to Palmerston North and my parents surprised us and booked a hotel for us to stay at for a couple of days. We loved that.

On January 19th we had another celebration in Palmerston North which was lots of fun. I enjoyed getting ready for the blessing and Rachel looked very beautiful.

We had the wedding blessing at an old small church near our house and I loved how my sister and her friend Rebekah decorated the church. We walked down the aisle together and a friend shared a message and served us communion.

We had lots of photographs and then went to my parents’ house for a party. We had speeches, our first dance, lots of dancing and dessert.

Our friends from our dance group did two special things for me and Rachel: a special song and dance to Uptown Girl and a Haka. It was incredible.

We had a great party, it was very late when we left and went to a hotel.

I think it is very awesome for a young man with Down syndrome to get married to a perfect bride.

I am so happy.

The bride and groom