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Sports and friendship for every child

PODGORICA, 1 June 2017 – What does every child want? The chance to kick a ball, to throw it well, to share that success with family members. What does every child with intellectual disabilities want? The exact same thing.

This is the motto of the Young Athletes Program organized by the Special Olympics throughout the world for children with and without disabilities aged between two and seven.

A boy passing through a caterpillar at one of the events organized with UNICEF’s support within the Special Olympics Young Athletes Program - UNICEF Montenegro / Danilo Papic / 2017

Thanks to the support from Marimo Berk and David Drummond Fund and UNICEF, Montenegro’s children have recently got a chance to benefit from this program.

“I like running. I ran like a rabbit and my friend Peter ran like a horse”, explains with a smile a five a year old boy named Pavel.

His peer Iva adds: “I found the parachute to be quite interesting. We were crawling like caterpillars, jumping over and running”.

They both point out that they met new friends while doing these sports activities.

Parents are happy as well, as, thanks to this initiative, children with and without disabilities can meet each other, become friends and spend time together regularly within the local community.

“What is important to me as a parent of a child with disabilities is that this program is not designed only for children like mine, but for children without disabilities as well”, says Sanja.

Young Athletes Program Coordinator for the Euro-Asian Region Maureen Clarke underlines its positive impact on child development.

A girl throwing a ball at one of the events organized with UNICEF’s support within the Special Olympics Young Athletes Program - UNICEF Montenegro / Danilo Papic / 2017

“Motor skills of children from the first phase of the pilot project were tested through tests which examine their development in three areas. Results were announced this week and they were fantastic. For example, some children who had these skills developed to 50-60 per cent before the project, after three months of trainings developed these skills to 100 per cent. This is a significant progress”, says Clarke.

Montenegrin athlete Ivan Stojanovic, who won gold and bronze medals in snowshoeing at Special Olympics in Austria, exercised with children as well.

“This is a great experience for children, because they have a chance to do sports at this age. I didn’t have such an opportunity, because there were no such preschool programs when I was their age”, Stojanovic explains.

Representative of Montenegro Special Olympics Ivan Radovic also underlines the significance of the participation of preschools in this initiative.

“Cooperation with kindergartens is excellent and teachers have a positive opinion of the program. They recognize it as something that was missing to their preschools’, says Radovic, pointing out that the Young Athletes Program represents a preparation for a more active practicing of sports within the Special Olympics.

Tamara Milic from the Ministry of Education says that the Young Athletes Program will be organized in kindergartens throughout Montenegro, so that, as many children as possible, with and without disabilities, have a chance to do sports and become friends with peers in the local communities.



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