Yeo Jia Chyang, 38, or JC as he is affably known, is an IT consultant by vocation and a coach by volition.
Every Monday and Thursday evening, for the past decade or so, he goes to Bishan Stadium to help train persons with intellectual disabilities to run marathons. He is steadfast in his commitment and is joined by other volunteers like Angela, Chara, Emily, Gerald, Hansen, Jasmine, Lynn and Yuni to name a few.
JC first got involved with the Special Olympics Singapore in 2003 when he saw a group of persons with intellectual disabilities train at the Delta Swimming Complex. ‘I can put my Saturday mornings to better use by helping to teach kids with intellectual disabilities to swim,’ he thought to himself. That amazing idea propelled him to join the Special Olympics Singapore Aquatics programme and subsequently, the Outreach Running Club, in 2004.
At the Outreach Running Club, he met Shaun and Lin Han, clients of Christian Outreach to the Handicapped (COH) and became their buddy runner. JC recalls how they started training for short-distance events and over the years, participated in longer, more gruelling distances like the 21km race.
To date, Shaun has completed the half marathon whilst Lin Han, who is ultra fit, has completed the full marathon of 42km! JC believes the boys are motivated because they enjoy running and benefit from the strong sense of camaraderie amongst team members.
“Other volunteer coaches are also their friends and motivate them to put in the extra effort,” JC shares.
On 28 November, the last training session before the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2013, JC was unable to run with the group as he had to go to Changi Airport to send another group of special athletes off to the First Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games 2013 in Australia.
Still, he rushed to Bishan Stadium to be with his volunteer mates, and helped his special trainees with their warm-up exercises. Such is his dedication.
JC reveals, “Establishing good rapport and getting to know the special athletes is not easy. Patience is very important. I try to formulate ways to help them by understanding their mannerisms, what they can or cannot do and so learn to better help them. Only when I get to know them well, are they more willing to listen to me and do what I tell them.”
Learning points acquired through years of training special athletes, help him understand what, when and where their limits are. In this way, he can structure their training more effectively to achieve an enhanced outcome. Judging from the respect and bond he shares with his charges, JC certainly has built trust and a strong connection with each person. He exclaims with pride how heartening it is to see his special athletes grow and improve over the years.
“They really put in the effort to follow the training programme,” he adds before admitting with a shy smile, “and they are also very endearing in their own way.”
They have taught him precious lessons of patience and perseverance; not to take things for granted, and to appreciate the small, simple things in life.
The Road Runners, Movers & Shakers!
JC runs marathons himself in order to keep up with his athletes during training and in races.
The support and assistance provided by a single volunteer to his charges has a multiplying effect, in terms of impact on families and community. Kudos to Special Olympics Volunteer Coaches like JC and the many other like-minded ones who go the extra mile to love and care for others.
Thank you for making a difference in their lives.
About the Author: The COH Resource Team comprises volunteers, content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals.