Issue date: 11/3/09 Section: News
In Nov. of 1969, Harry “Red” Foster spearheaded the first Special Olympics in Toronto, Ontario. During these first Games, 1,400 athletes with intellectual disabilities competed. Forty years later, this year’s Special Olympic Winter Games have 32,000 athletes with disabilities registered.
These athletes are registered in “sport programs that operate every day of the week in hundreds of sport clubs across the country”, according to the Special Olympics Official Web site.
The creator of the Special Olympics, Foster, was “inspired by his love for a brother who has an intellectual disability” and “this November, during Special Olympics Month, Canadians will be reminded of the legacy left by this great humanitarian, broadcaster and advertising executive”, as stated in the press release for the event.
Currently, the Special Olympics Organization has 14,000 volunteers and coaches trained through the National Coaching Certification Program. The goal that all of these volunteers share is to “improve athletes’ overall health and fitness, and their ability to train and compete in Special Olympics programs”, as the Web site states.
In addition to the volunteers and coaches who run the programs, the Special Olympics Web site draws attention to the “12,000 law enforcement officers, who lead the Law Enforcement Torch Run, [the] Special Olympics’ single largest grassroots fundraiser and public awareness vehicle in Canada”.
One of the main goals of the entire Special Olympics Organization, as stated in their mission statement, is to “improve physical fitness and motor skills, leading to greater self-confidence and a more positive self-image”.
A 46-year-old former member of the Special Olympics Bowling Team in Grimsby – who wished to be refered to as Mary for the purpose of this article – is an example of the positive work that the Special Olympics Organization does. Jaylyn Anderson, Mary’s caregiver, talks about the benefits from the weekly bowling practices Mary was involved in.
“Mary got to meet people of all ages, teenagers, older people, everybody from every walks of life that could relate to her,” said Anderson.
Another way that Mary was able to gain from the organization and its work was that it encouraged her to “live healthy and exercise, and it was something that was just for her that and she looked forward to” Anderson said.
“They were given ribbons and trophies […] and she still keeps in contact with a lot of the friends she made there.”
It also encouraged Mary to be independent.
“It’s something that she did on her own, I would go to be her caregiver and I would just sit back and watch,” said Anderson.
Overall, the organization gave Mary a chance to interact with people she could relate to, allowed her to be active, and made her feel good about herself, which are all goals of the Special Olympics Organization.
A statement made by Deborah Bright, the President and CEO of Special Olympics Canada, includes, “just like Mr. Foster, we see potential and ability in Special Olympics athletes […] we hope that many more Canadians will come to experience the authentic power of Special Olympics by registering […] as a volunteer during [November], Special Olympics Month”.
November 7 marks the ninth year that the Special Olympics Winter Games will be broadcasted nationally. TSN will air a live broadcast from 10-11 a.m. to catch the live broadcast.
To learn more about becoming a volunteer log on to the official Special Olympics Web site at specialolympics.ca