A HALESOWEN grandmother had been recognised in the King's Birthday Honours for her dedication to helping hundreds of athletes compete in the Special Olympics.

Norma Hyde has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to the group Special Olympics Sandwell (SOS).

The 70-year-old, who chairs SOS, has been dedicated to helping people with a learning disability in Sandwell for more than 40 years.

She has enabled hundreds of people with learning disabilities of all ages to participate, train and compete in a range of sports.

The group runs regular weekly sporting activities and offers regular opportunities for the athletes to attend other sporting events in the UK.

Norma, who has two children and two grandchildren, has dedicated a great deal of time to organising fundraising activities to cover the cost of transport to sports events and to support participants to attend competitions away from home; and in 2022, the SOS volunteers were awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

Tireless Norma, who was also previously a teacher at Meadows School in Oldbury, was the driving force that supported her 16+ students to participate in the Young Enterprise scheme that gave students the opportunity to learn work skills including making, marketing and then selling the items.

Norma, who lives in Shell Corner, said: "I'm very excited, absolutely thrilled.

"It's wonderful.

“It’s so rewarding to be part of the Special Olympics movement. The sessions mean so much to our athletes and I’ve witnessed such amazing transformations from them over the years, not just in their sporting abilities but in their day-to-day lives.

"It's a challenge and there are hurdles. Covid was dreadful for our athletes because they were so isolated and they didn't know what was happening.

"But we got them back into it.

"It's life-changing for some of the athletes."

Norma worked as a teacher at the former Regent Special School in Tividale, then at Meadows School in Oldbury She started volunteering for Special Olympics Sandwell back in 1983 and is helped by her husband Ken, aged 80.

She was appointed Chair in 2000 and has supported the journeys of many local athletes in her 41 years at the club.

Laura Baxter MBE, Chief Executive of Special Olympics Great Britain, said: “Norma has been such a pivotal member of the Special Olympics movement for many years and we’re so pleased to see her hard work and dedication recognised through a British Empire Medal.

“She’s given so much to Special Olympics Sandwell for more than 40 years, which goes well beyond arranging and delivering the three sports sessions each week.

"Multiple sporting competitions have been staged in Sandwell over the years and she’s taken athletes across the country to participate in national and regional competitions.

"However, more than anything Norma has helped change lives and we’re very grateful for everything that she continues to do for the Special Olympics movement.”

Special Olympics GB has more than 6,600 athletes benefitting from opportunities in 27 different sports, which are delivered by a devoted team of 3,800 volunteers.