She hardly knew anything about disability sports before she chanced upon the two-day Unified Football Tournament at the HDB Hub over the weekend.
Mandy Loo, in her 40s and a mother of two, was hooked after witnessing Team Singapore's Cerebral Palsy footballers play alongside local legends like Fandi Ahmad.
She said: "It was a fun and enriching experience for my family. We didn't know much about disabled sports or the athletes.
"However, after this, we appreciate our athletes and sports. We are already planning to catch a few events in December."
The Loo family were among more than 5,000 people who watched the event - held by the organisers of the ASEAN Para Games here this December - over the two days.
The football event was the second such outreach programme, after the Unified Table Tennis Tourney in July.
A third - a powerlifting event - will be held next month. The Games organising committee goal is to educate more Singaporeans about para sports in the hope they will then support the 166 Team Singapore para-athletes that will do battle across 15 sports in the regional Games, which the Republic will host from Dec 3 to 9.
"We hope that the ASEAN Para Games this year will be a game changer for disability sports in Singapore," said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, on the sidelines of yesterday's event.
"The reason why we are doing this is not just because of the Games, but really we hope that the Games will be a catalyst to help us transform and strengthen the sporting culture among disability sports."
He revealed that the Government had set aside a budget of about $75 million to organise the Games - a fraction of the $324.5m spent for June's South-east Asia Games, which was of a much bigger scale, with 402 events in 36 sports across 12 days.
Other than the Games' opening ceremony, admission to December's events will be free, with organisers working with companies and voluntary welfare organisations to bring Singaporeans, able-bodied or otherwise, to the ASEAN Para Games.
"Experience tours" will be conducted, allowing Singaporeans to try out para-sports at ASEAN Para Games carnivals at the Sports Hub and Marina Bay, while para-athletes have been paired up with SEA Games heroes like netball's Micky Lin and swimmer Amanda Lim in promotional posters, to leverage on the heightened visibility of the able-bodied athletes after the SEA Games.
The Kids Dash event at the annual Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore this year will be held at the Singapore Sports Hub's 100PLUS Sports Promenade on Dec 5, with the hope that the children and parents will then catch the ASEAN Para Games track and field events at the National Stadium thereafter, according to Games organising chairman Lim Teck Yin.
"We have never hosted the Games before, so it's really a golden opportunity to see what it's about," said Lim, also the chief executive of national sports agency Sport Singapore.
"Everybody I've met who has ever watched para-sport comes away and tells me that they are really inspired.
"So parents: bring your children along. Look at the grit and determination of our athletes, look at what they do in spite of the disadvantages and how they live life to the fullest.
"They epitomise what we want to see in Vision 2030, a very strong Singapore spirit."
This article was first published on Sept 28, 2015.
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