Karen Fox: Special Olympics - Melbourne Inner East
Karen leads a team where everyone wins
Every Wednesday a special group of swimmers meet at their local pool.
They are members of the Melbourne Inner East Special Olympics team and are training for local competitions and a chance to compete on a state, national or even world stage.
Coordinator and coach Karen Fox is always there to offer encouragement.
“It’s all about the athletes, giving them a chance to train, compete and improve as well as have fun,” she says.
At any time, around 40 intellectually disabled athletes aged between 10 and 40 train with the squad.
Apart from the physical benefits, participation encourages social inclusion, says Karen, who has been a volunteer at the club for more than 10 years.
She is an active member of the Special Olympics committee and was a carer and team manager of the Victorian swimming team the Special Olympics National Games in South Australia.
The club training is tailored to the needs of each athlete so they can improve their swimming and self-esteem.
Thanks to her warm personality and enthusiasm, Karen has created an environment where everyone is welcome and included.
She encourages the swimmers to focus on personal bests rather than medals.
“We create equal opportunity for everyone and they all feel they are with friends,” she says.
Karen feels honoured to be voted a Westfield Local Hero.
“It will increase the profile of the Special Olympics and show the community how amazing our athletes are.
“And it means that volunteers get recognised for all the effort they put in.”
The $10,000 grant will go towards hiring the pool, new equipment and further training for the three volunteer coaches.
“We’re also looking at getting some uniforms so the athletes feel part of a team,” says Karen.