Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Golden girl Orla Smyth rewarded with biggest honour yet

All gold: Former Sports Minister and now Health Minister Edwin Poots with Volunteer Champion Orla Smyth and the five gold medals and Best Senior Athlete Award she won at the British Transplant Games in August

Transplant Games World record holder and Gold medallist Orla Smyth has spoken of her great honour at having been appointed to the ambassadorial role of Volunteer Champion with the Volunteer Now organisation.

Orla won five gold medals and the Best Senior Athlete Award at the British Transplant games earlier this year and admits that her stunning success could not have been achieved without the hard work and dedication that volunteers in sport offer to athletes of all ages and abilities here.

“I was delighted to be approached by Volunteer Now to become one of their Volunteer Champions,” said Orla who fought back from having to undergo a life-saving kidney transplant to achieve her sporting goals..

“I have been lucky enough to have been given a second chance at life and I want to grab every opportunity that comes along.

“I want to make a difference and anything that I can do to demonstrate to people not only the real difference volunteers have made to my life but also how much I personally get out of volunteering is too good an opportunity to pass.

“The impact and positive influence that volunteers have had on my success is immeasurable.

“Without their help and advice I wouldn’t be in the position I am at the moment and in reality sport would come to a standstill if it wasn't for the amazing volunteers who give their time and expertise to sport both on and off the pitch.”

Orla’s story is one of inspiration, making her the perfect role model for sportsmen and women in this country, and a big reason why Volunteer Now chose her as their Volunteer Champion.

“I was always passionate about sport and before I became ill and had a kidney transplant, I represented Northern Ireland in football and played Gaelic football at university,” she added.

“When I was on dialysis my lifestyle was forced to change but since my transplant I was determined to ensure sport played a big part in my life; little did I realise just how big a part.

“As a sportswoman I average six to seven training sessions a week.

“Last year I completed my first marathon, something I never thought I would have the physical or mental strength to do. I also competed in the World Transplant Games and managed to obtain five Gold Medals, three in World Record breaking times.

“My aim is to improve on these times for the World Games in 2013 in South Africa, but my ultimate goal is to stay healthy to enable me to take part in sport.”

For more information go to: www.volunteernow.co.uk

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