After years of anticipation and months of preparation, the Olympics are finally upon us, with venues all over the country involved in hosting events.
From the newly formed Olympic village in Stratford to the rowing venue at Dorney Lake, to Newcastle United’s St James’ Park, thousands of people from all across Great Britain have been working hard to ensure that London 2012 is a celebration for the whole world.
One person who was there right at the start of the London bid process was Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes. Having retired from the track in 2005, Dame Kelly Holmes is now involved in a range of activities, none more important to her than The Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust.
The Trust helps disadvantaged young people from across the country fulfil their potential and achieve their aspirations. It also offers athletes coming to the end of their competitive life the chance to learn new skills as they wind down their career to take on new challenges. Dame Kelly explained:
“The Trust helps disadvantaged kids and those not in education or employment. We have around 100 athletes working at the Trust, including former world champions and Paralympians. They come from a variety of disciplines including swimming and rowing, hockey, basketball, weightlifting and boxing.
“We have athletes across the country and try to get to as many different places as possible via activities like our Get on Track Programme which operates across the UK and is designed to engage young people in sport. Any money raised in the regions is put back into the same area and we have some great links with local partnership events.”
Former Olympians involved in the 10-week Get on Track Programme include Paula Reinoso, Mara Yamauchi, Anna Jackson, Adam Whitehead, the 2002 Commonwealth champion and 1998 European Champion swimmer; and Jane Couch – boxing world champion.
Dame Kelly continued: “The charity helps to provide the tools for children to fulfil their aspirations and gain confidence, but it also helps sports people to up-skill, to set them up as their competitive career is winding down.
“We have three key components to our Get on Track Programme. Step one is ‘On your Marks’ where the young people are taught communication skills and how to interact with each other.
Step two is the ‘Get Set’ stage, where they might be given community tasks such as volunteering at a race. This helps build teamwork and teaches them how to handle responsibility.”
Dame Kelly said the final step ‘Go’ allows all those taking part to use the skills they’ve learnt to get back into the school system, volunteer, become apprentices or enter employment.
She admits many of those on the course are nervous at first: “Go is a celebration of their achievements. We spend 10 weeks with the young people engaging with them and building up their skills. For some of them, setting foot into the building is the hardest task, but we know that if they’re still there at the end of the first day, they are likely to go right through the programme.”
Dame Kelly shared one particular example – Andy from Reading: “He came onto the programme with little self-confidence and was not in education or employment. Now he is a self-employed fitness instructor.
“We’ve got lots of stories like this and we can really see the change in people after they’ve started – and finished the course. Like I said, the most important thing is getting them there and if they are still in their seat at the end of the first day then we know they will finish the course.
“We’ve seen a really positive change in the people that have taken part.”
With sport in the spotlight right now, it is the ideal time to support The Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust through Virgin Money Giving.
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