Member for Maroochydore, MP Fiona Simpson officiated at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the first Special Olympics Sunshine Coast Golf Program at the Tanawha Valley Golf and Tennis Centre in 2014.
The Special Olympics organisation provides sports pathways specifically for individuals living with an intellectual disability at the local, regional, state, national and international levels.
Founder of the SOSC program, PGA Professional Darrell Dalton soon realised that other underprivileged groups in the community could benefit greatly from the low impact activity of golf. He decided to set up a dedicated organisation to deliver programs to groups suffering from isolation due to their circumstance. Golf Programs Australia Incorporated (GPAI) was the result.
Formed in April 2015, the organisation’s slogan Driving Inclusion / Breaking Isolation encapsulates the charity’s mission beautifully.
GPAI developed quickly. December 2016 saw the opening of its successful retail store. The store supports the charity from its retail micro-business concepts while also acting as the organisations office and community outreach.
Over time, GPAI offered participants living with an intellectual disability an opportunity to train in retail, business, and creativity. This initiative has resulted in amazing successes leading to GPAI extending its training with government grant assistance.
Today and in the Future
GPAI delivers the largest Special Olympics Golf Program in Australia with over 30 participants in its weekly Tuesday afternoon program. Some of these athletes have gone on to representing successfully at the national and international levels.
Other golf programs will be delivered to groups such as youth at risk, those living with mental health issues (such as PTSD, Bi-Polar Disorder, Schizophrenia) and physical disabilities. Programs aimed at our aged and indigenous youth are also being developed.
The limited access to suitable facilities is the biggest challenge for delivering additional GPAI golf programs. It was because of this hurdle that Darrell developed the organisational vision of establishing a Purpose Built Golf Facility (PBGF). Many underprivileged groups suffering isolation (while at the same time offering meaning training and employment for individuals living with an intellectual disability) could benefit from the programs offered by this facility. A true “win-win” scenario.