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The Barry Easy Story

This page is to celebrate the incredible contribution that the late Barry Easy OAM made to the Special Olympics movement in Australia.

Barry as co-founder of the Kuringgai Chase, which he named, had a vision to create a event that brought together the community that supported the local Special Olympics program.

The Kuringgai Chase is the culmination of an amazing body of work by Barry. From the formation of the Special Olympics program in Australia in the early 1980’s, navigating the early years to mentoring the development of the Sydney Upper North Shore and Hills District Club’s, Barry’s vision, dedication, commitment, professionalism and passion for the cause always shone through.

I feel privileged to have know Barry and to have had him as a mentor. We worked many issues together, which was Barry’s great strength, and I feel honoured to be able to carry on Barry’s legacy through the Special Olympics Kuringgai Chase and Barry Easy Walk.

Greg Simmons
Co Founder and Chair

Speech from Rex Langthorne, at our 2020 Launch Event

I must say it is a privilege to speak about the late Barry Easy OAM and the significant contribution he made in the establishment of Special Olympics not only here in Australia but also in the Asia Pacific Region. It is also a privilege to do so in front of Barry’s family members present.

Not to be confused with the Paralympics, Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and competition for people with an intellectual disability. It was founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, John F Kennedy’s sister. Eunice had a sister Rosemary with an intellectual disability and was of the belief that people with an intellectual disability could achieve if given the opportunity. Despite a lot of opposition from people suggesting she was wasting her time she started a day camp for people with an intellectual disability at the family compound offering athletics and swimming events & hence Special Olympics was born and where today providing opportunity for some 5M people in 190 countries worldwide.

In the early 1980’s Barry and I were members of the Sydney Kiwanis Club an international service organisation based in the USA and whose mission is to ‘build better communities’. Barry was the President at the time & I the Secretary/Treasurer.

We received a communication from the USA about this organisation Special Olympics needing some help to get established in Australia. Having played a lot of sport Barry and I thought this sounds interesting and an opportunity to give something back using both our sport and business backgrounds. Barry having played 1st Grade cricket.

At that time there had been attempts to start up the organisation with small programs operating in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania but there was no national body or interaction between the programs.

Barry contacted each of the existing programs with the view to establishing a national body that could liaise with the USA headquarters. This also meant that Australia would receive invitations to participate in World Games. Through Barry’s great drive and enthusiasm for the cause he;

  • Did a lot of planning both at his office at ESSO Oil Co and as Mary will attest at their Turramurra home where we often had a small scotch at the conclusion of the meeting – very civilised. The planning centred around how to establish a program, key people to engage and financial sources to target. The consensus was the key elements were people & money as the need for the organisation had been well established.
  • Lobbied government and the corporate world for support – not widely know but Kerry Packer wrote a substantial cheque to help kick-start the organisation
  • Travelled to the other states often at his own expense setting up meetings to establish new programs
  • He also travelled to various country towns with the aim of establishing local regional programs. This was usually done at week-ends and where steering committees were set-up
  • Arranged a Marketing program to create awareness of the organisation and that also called for volunteers. Some 500 new volunteers responded and attended a meeting at Homebush, and which was the catalyst for breaking up Sydney into 4 areas North, East South and West. This program was supported by the advertising agency Marketforce whom daughter Marion worked for and the PR company Edlements. The CEO of Edlements was Robyn Sefiani who later became a Board member of Special Olympics Australia having established her own PR company.
  • Chaired the first National Committee and became Chairman of the Board of SOA when the first company was formed in 1990 and with the membership made up of representatives from each of the States. This was a challenging time with the typical parochial aspects of a national body.
  • When we established the first office for SOA, I sourced some spare office space at Westpac and Barry sourced unwanted furniture from ESSO.
  • Barry was also involved in organising several National Games and I can recall him going to Perth with essentially a blank piece of paper in terms of people’s names, but he had a plan and knew the skills and who was needed to make it a success. Through his careful planning the Games went off particularly well with accommodation at the Perth University and we stopped the traffic in the central business district with a parade of athletes.
  • As if there was not enough to do in Australia Barry also saw time to establish the Asia Pacific Leadership Council and attended many meetings in Singapore and other cities in Asia. (There was one occasion where Barry and Mary took a ride in a Took Took in Manilla and they were very relieved when they got back to their hotel) These initiatives resulted in Barry gaining a seat on the International Board representing Asia Pacific. I succeeded Barry in these roles but it was he who established the blueprint.
  • After serving the maximum term permissible on the Australian Board Barry’s next project was to establish the Upper North Shore Region as Sydney North was too large an area to cover. His vision was to have a strong committed committee, well backed financially, engage with schools and to have staff supporting both the administration and program delivery. This model proved successful with over 200 participants excluding those supported in special schools. One of his initiatives was a school’s day where all the schools involved came together for a carnival. This too was a great success as was the Fun-Run he established due to his strengths of careful planning and attention to detail.

I could go on, but I must mention that Barry received recognition for his tireless efforts from his country when awarded the Medal in the Order of Australia which was very well deserved.

So often as time passes much of the hard work done in the establishment and development gets glossed over or it is forgotten what actually occurred to make it happen. Therefore, it is very appropriate that the Upper North Shore Region name this event in Barry’s honour in recognition of the many many hours of voluntary service he gave to the organisation with the ultimate goal in mind of improving the lives of people with an intellectual disability through sport. Well done Barry, we in Special Olympics are all indebted to you.

Thank you.

Rex Langthorne

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