Special Olympics Israel launches support system for athletes affected by Hamas terror

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Special Olympics Israel launches support system for athletes affected by Hamas terror

A first of its kind civil emergency response centre is providing equipment, emotional support and evacuation assistance to athletes with intellectual disabilities following attacks on 7th October.

Special Olympics football team training with the National Israeli woman's football team in June 2023. Pic: Ben Melnik
Special Olympics football team training with the National Israeli woman's football team in June 2023. Pic: Ben Melnik

The Israeli umbrella organisation for people with intellectual and communication disabilities involved in competitive and grassroots sports has set up a civil emergency response centre.

Special Olympics Israel ER (emergency response) is the first centre of its kind to be launched following the Hamas attacks of October 7th, providing support to special athletes and their families whose lives have been dramatically affected.

It allocates emotional support for athletes, helps residents of the South with equipment, relocation and activities including yoga classes. A volunteer was found to provide sports training to children with special needs in Bat Yam at the centre of Israel, offering their parents some free time.

Sivan Segal, a footballer with intellectual disabilities forced to spend more than 16 hours in her safe room while terrorists were inside her house, is the Special Olympics Israel presenter for a fundraising campaign to fund the emergency response centre and its activities.

Sivan Segal. Pic: Ben Melnik

38-year old Segal, from Kibbutz Kisufim in the Gaza envelope, woke up on Saturday October 7th at 6:30am, to sirens. Entering the safe room with her mother and sister, about 2 minutes later, a WhatsApp message came in, instructing them to lock the room because terrorists had infiltrated the kibbutz.

After a short while, the girls heard the terrorists. The noise was so loud that they said it felt like the terrorists’ command room was inside the house. They fired several rounds at the safe room door but failed to break it down, instead trying to burn and explode it using a hand grenade.

Israel Special Olympics fundraising campaign.

The terrorists even enlarged the hole and asked Sivan and her family to come out of the safe room, but they did not leave for over 16 hours. They remained quiet, used a bucket for their needs, and waited until the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) arrived to free them.

When they finally came out, around 2:00 AM, it was dark. The family discovered that the terrorists had drunk, eaten and looted the house, leaving behind signs of a fire that had fortunately not spread, along with significant destruction.

Segal says: “The trauma still lingers in the heart, there is fear and sadness, but with that, the mood is better. For now, my mother, my sister, and I are staying in a hotel by the Dead Sea with our kibbutz community, and the state representatives told us we will stay here for at least half a year. I am passing the time with recreational activities and spending time with my family. I wish everyone and the country peace, and that we return home soon.”

Pic: Ben Melnik

Sharon Levi Ben-Ga, chief executive officer of Special Olympics Israel, said: “In these difficult days, we must not forget people with special needs. As an umbrella organisation uniting organisations and athletes with intellectual and communication disabilities involved in competitive and grassroots sports across various disciplines, we are committed to providing support to this population.

“In recent days, in addition to the increased sports activities we offer, we have assisted our athletes from the South and the central regions who need emotional support. Like in any crisis, our athletes and their families need special assistance and attention. That’s why we established the civil emergency operation centre, and we are here to assist all athletes and organisations in whatever is needed. Contact us, and we will help.”

The international Special Olympics organisation founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver includes more than six million athletes and Unified Sports partners and one million coaches and volunteers in over 200 accredited programmes around the world.

To support the appeal, click here.

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