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Penny McDowall, Cert. Hon.

Penny McDowall, Cert. Hon.

Penny McDowall, Certificate and Badge of Honour

Between ferrying her athletes to and from practice and cheering poolside, Mrs. Penny McDowall has little time to sit and talk about her achievements.

And even when she does, she redirects any compliments to her young charges. Yet Penny exemplifies selfless commitment and her passion for the Special Olympics has long earned her the respect of the athletes and admiration from her peers.

Now additional meaningful kudos have come her way: This time it is national recognition, courtesy of the Cayman Islands Certificate and Badge of Honour, for contributing to the community through the Special Olympics.

This acknowledgement follows another rare honour bestowed on her last year when she became one of only 40 coaches worldwide to receive the 2009 Special Olympics' Exemplary Coach Award.

Originally from Missouri, Penny arrived in Cayman in 1984 and worked for Bob Soto's as a dive instructor. Then, armed with a bachelor's degree in education and a master's in education and counseling psychology she turned to teaching, launching her new career with the Lighthouse School in 1991.

She immediately saw a need to teach students to be comfortable in the water. "It struck me that although they were surrounded by water, most couldn't swim," says Penny.

This realisation prompted her to start Cayman's Special Olympics aquatics programme, inevitably assuming the position of coach - a title she has borne with enthusiasm for the past 17 years.

The programme's humble beginnings - when it offered only basic swim training - have evolved into producing competitive athletes such as star swimmer Andrew Smilley. "And there are many more to come," Penny proudly says.

Always working to unlock students' potential, Penny is collaborating with the Cayman Islands Swim School and other swim clubs to give her team exposure to swim competitions and additional training.

Grooming Cayman's next generation of Special Olympians entails a hard, six-day work week commitment, but it is more than worth it, she contends.

"These children have the talent, determination and perseverance to succeed. Moreover, swimming gives them a chance to grow, to build their confidence and become a meaningful part of the community. It is incredible what a difference it makes in their lives and I am just so proud of them," she concludes.

For further information contact: Wosila Rochester