St Albans man becomes Special Olympics ambassador

Matt Dodds

Matt Dodds - Credit: Archant

A gold-medal winning Special Olympics footballer has beaten international competition to become a Global Change Ambassador.

Matt Dodds, 24, from St Albans, has been selected as an ambassador for the Special Olympics. He won a gold medal at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in 2015, and is also an assistant coach at local athletics clubs.

Matt will take up his new role alongside Youth Sport Trust Youth board member Gemma Maclean, who is based in Inverness, at a Special Olympics Social Impact summit in Graz, Austria in March, which coincides with the Special Olympics World Winter Games.

The summit will bring together 80 young leaders from across the world to create the ‘Generation Unified’, as part of the global ‘Play Unified’ movement, which aims to break down barriers for young people with learning disabilities through sport.

Through the campaign, which is delivered by Special Olympics GB in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust, Matt hopes to help address the negative attitudes around people with intellectual disabilities or additional support needs.

Matt has been a keynote speaker at a series of Play Unified events, and is developing work in the build-up to the inaugural UK Youth Leadership summit in August.

He said: “I am honoured to have been chosen to attend the World Youth Leadership Summit in Austria in March. To represent Special Olympics Great Britain at this summit - after the incredible journey I have been on with them - means a great deal to me.

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“I hope to promote Special Olympics’ Play Unified campaign at the summit which is trying to help people with and without intellectual disabilities to work, live and play closer together.

“Gemma and I want to encourage students to focus on individuals’ abilities instead of highlighting their disabilities.

“With the help of Play Unified, we want to motivate students to break barriers and change the perceptions around people with an intellectual disability in their school. We hope to raise awareness about the need for inclusion for all.”