Sheffield Special Olympics athlete whose charity drawings have gone global meets Sheffield Wednesday football hero
A young Special Olympics athlete from Sheffield whose drawings have raised more than £4,700 for charity has been given the opportunity to virtually meet one of his football heroes.
Niall Guite, 26, from Millhouses, has achieved worldwide acclaim for his renderings of UK football stadiums all of which are drawn from his now-signature aeriel view.
The young artist originally set out to create 26 drawings in March to raise money for Special Olympics GB, a non-profit organisation which provides year-round sports coaching and athletic competition for people with intellectual disabilities.
A Special Olympics gold medalist himself, he had hoped to raise just £260 for the charity – but he smashed that goal within a month and the money has kept rolling in, with commissions coming from far and wide for the one-of-a-kind felt-tip artwork.
Niall, who has autism and other disabilities such as dyslexia and dyspraxia, has now sold more than 110 drawings through his JustGiving site and recently captured the attention of American sports channel ESPN who put him in touch with Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Kadeem Harris.
As a devout Owls fan, it was the ‘best day ever’ for Niall as his mum Michelle explained.
She said: “It was quite amazing. We think he’s an amazing player but having virtually met him, we watch him and just know how lovely he is as well. Niall was asking him loads of questions about what his best position was to play, who he’d made friends with in the team – we just feel like he's part of our family now!
"They’ve even invited him to the ground when they can – it was just lovely.”
Twitter has proved a vital tool in helping Niall raise awareness for Special Olympics GB through his charity artwork – reaching America as well as places including Greece, Spain and Germany.
Manchester City midfielder, Rodrigo Hernandez Cascante, also gave a nod to Niall’s drawing of the Etihad stadium on a video message while renowned artist Grayson Perry has tweeted the 26-year-old to say he loved his drawings.
Niall plans to close down his JustGiving page – where donations currently total £4,708 – at the end of the year.
However it won’t be the last we'll see of the young artist who will continue creating commissions and digital drawings, with the hope of possibly turning it into a career.
Michelle said: “We know the impact that Special Olympics has on an athletes life. For Niall it’s been really empowering, it’s allowed him to develop as an individual and find a positive way in life.
"It’s lovely to know that Niall as an athlete will hopefully be able to impact someone else’s life who also has an intellectual disability. That self advocacy is an amazing message to carry. The messages we receive from people all over the world are just heartwarming, they’re really engaged with Niall and what he is doing.”
She added: “He’s hoping to launch his own website so he can continue to sell his artwork, it would be a social enterprise so a percentage of the money raised would still go to Special Olympics – it’s something he wants to do but also help Special Olympics as well.”
You can follow Niall’s story on Twitter, @niallguitesogb4.