Andrew Hetherington, Joiner at Hodgson Sayers, shines the light on the Special Olympics 2015 where he is set to compete

Next year could well be the most exciting year of my life as I look forward to competing at the Special Olympics 2015 in Los Angeles.

I have always had a passion for football and have enjoyed playing the sport for as long as I can remember. When I was 18 I played as a defender for Boro’ Rangers on Teesside and have remained with the club ever since.

It was thanks to playing with the team that my coach put me forward for the Special Olympics. Not many people are aware of it and neither was I, but being diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia meant that if I was good enough I could compete to a higher level.

The Special Olympics was founded in 1968, in the USA, by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of former President John F Kennedy. She believed that the ideology of the Olympics would give confidence and hope to people like myself who have a learning disability, through the enjoyment of sport.

So, having researched the games, I went up to Glasgow for the trials. This was where I was initially selected to represent the North of England and where we would train to compete against other regions in Great Britain.

Since then, I have been invited to play for the Great Britain team. Selected players from each region have been asked to represent the nation, in the same way you would select the top athletes to compete in the Olympics — this was a great moment for me!

Due to the logistics of us being dotted around Great Britain we come together at specific times of the year for training or events.

In November we will resume our training in Runcorn, Cheshire, as preparations build for us to compete in Los Angeles between the 25 July— 02 August, 2015.

Being a part of this has really made a difference to me, it is a great feeling to know that you are representing your nation and that having a learning difficulty does not have to impact on your life.

Part of the reason I am discussing my involvement is to raise awareness, as not many people know about the event and it can often get overlooked. We have some fantastic ambassadors such as four-time Olympic athlete, Jo Pavey, Darren Campbell, Olympic champion sprinter and footballer and Manager, Chris Kamara, plus a whole host of other names that you may recognise.

While I am extremely proud to train and take part in the games, I equally enjoy my training with Boro’ Rangers and I also help out at Beamish Diamonds, a local club where youngsters with learning disabilities enjoy playing the game. It is great for me to showcase to them what can be achieved and how the love and bond of a sport can really unite and bring people together.

As part of the celebrations around the Hodgson Sayers 35th birthday, all employees are encouraged to support a worthy cause, and my efforts have been concentrated on my training and participation within the Special Olympics It has been a big morale boost to have the company’s support with this especially when it comes to them understanding that I need to time off for the event and the support of financial sponsorship.

It would be great if you could take some time to find out more about the organisation by heading to the website: http://www.specialolympics.org/. I will look forward to reporting on our progress as we build up to the games next year!