Special spot in her heart

Moira Ryde is grateful to the amazing support she's received from her loving husband Tony over the years. 412289 Pictures: NICK SINIS

Pakenham’s Moira Ryde has had a long association with the Special Olympics with her almost 40 years of dedication recognised with an OAM award.

Moira was recognised for her service to people with disability through Special Olympics Victoria.

She spoke with Gazette reporter NICK SINIS about her years of involvement and what it means to her.

Her inspiration for being part of the Special Olympics stems from her love and lifelong passion for sports, especially swimming.

She was part of the Masters Swimming Australian, competing in Tokyo, and Veteran Athletics later in life.

With a long list of awards already, as well as holding various roles within Special Olympics Victoria, her OAM recognition was the cherry on top.

When asked what inspired her to volunteer, she simply stated she ‘had some spare time’.

“My kids have always played sports and I’ve been involved in Masters Swimming and Veteran Athletics,” she said.

“But I wanted to give something back and I’ve been very lucky. I’ve sat on the international rules committee for the Special Olympics.

“I believe intellectually disabled people are the forgotten sports people.”

Holding numerous roles such as the former chair, treasurer, director roles and coordinator, she has also been involved in state, national and world games.

“We have clubs train weekly and have state games every year, national games every four and then world games,” she said.

“Our snow skiers are off to Italy next year, and we’ve got bocce and bowling going to India next year.

“I’ve been lucky to travel with lots of teams.”

Moira specifically noted that being on the international rules committee was a highlight, which she was part of for six years and involved travelling to Washington.

But ultimately, every competition is a highlight for her.

“It’s a highlight because someone achieved something that they or their family didn’t think they would ever do.”

And she has no plans to slow down, as she was busy planning the upcoming games in Casey Fields as the Gazette was interviewing her.

“Once you get involved it just becomes so rewarding,” she said.

“We have the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which the police are heavily involved with, and they help fundraise.

“They do the opening ceremonies for us.”

Moira also puts a lot of effort into fundraising as some athletes need to raise up to $4000 when competing overseas.

Her meticulous attention to detail and organisation was credited to her working career as a bookkeeper.

Moira and her husband Tony, who has always been a huge supporter, currently live at Cardinia Waters Retirement Village and are grateful to be surrounded by their loving family.

With three children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren, they are also kept busy on weekends attending sports with many of them playing locally.

Moira has also received numerous awards in the past such as the Victorian Premier’s Volunteer Champions Award (2016), Special Olympics Australia Hall of Fame (2014), Special Olympics life member and one she is particularly proud of, the Australian Sports Medal (2000).

“It (sports medal) was the first medal I’ve ever won (outside of competitions) and that year was one of the very first it was awarded.”

When asked how it felt receiving an OAM, she joked she could now ‘retire’.

“I’m very honoured, it’s not something that just happens,” she said.

“It’s very important to volunteer, the country wouldn’t survive without it. There’s so many things you can do.

“Don’t put off today, don’t put off tomorrow; you don’t know what’s around the corner.

“I see so many people waste their lives, it doesn’t have to be volunteering but just do something that brings you joy.”