Campbell River’s Maureen Hunter was part of a delegation of Canada’s Special Olympics “Team Canada” members officially recognized Wednesday on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
The delegation included Jamie Salé, Olympic Gold Medalist and Special Olympics honorary coach and Sharon Bollenbach, Chief Executive Officer, Special Olympics Canada.
The team, consisting of 104 athletes, 35 mission staff and coaches, travelled to Ottawa to celebrate its achievements at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games held in Austria in March 2017. Hunter, the local coordinator for Special Olympics Campbell River, attended those games as a snowshoeing coach. She and her husband Harvey have been longtime snowshoeing coaches with Campbell River Special Olympics.
The day started with a celebratory pep rally at Notre Dame High School and a unified basketball game with the high school students followed by the formal recognition ceremony by the Government of Canada and a reception with the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, on Parliament Hill.
The high school pep rally was presided over by the Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities and Member of Parliament (Calgary Centre).
“These Special Olympics Team Canada athletes are a true inspiration,” said Minister Hehr. “It is a privilege to honour the team for their performance at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games. I would like to congratulate them and thank them for representing Canada on the world stage.”
Official recognition by the Government of Canada in the House of Commons is reserved for special guests, including Canada’s Olympians and Paralympians, who were also honoured by Canada’s Members of Parliament in for their achievements following Rio 2016.
“This is a very exciting day for Special Olympics Canada and for all Canadians with an intellectual disability,” said Sharon Bollenbach, Chief Executive Officer, Special Olympics Canada. “We are honoured to be officially recognized in the House of Commons by the Prime Minister of Canada, the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, Ministers, MPs, Senators and staff.”
The Government of Canada is a supporter of Special Olympics Canada. Government funding has been designated to both grassroots programs and competitions in communities across Canada as well as national initiatives that support Pan-Canadian growth and development and Canada’s participation on the world stage.
The impact of the incremental funding is far reaching and has changed the face of Special Olympics in Canada. More athletes with an intellectual disability are actively participating in more sports, in more communities across the country, with the support of more committed volunteers. Special Olympics Canada’s National Partner, Bain & Co., conducted a study that revealed that for every $1 invested in Special Olympics Canada community sport programs there is $7 of Social Return on Investment through improved athlete health and employment.
“We are grateful to the government of Canada for its generous and on-going financial contribution to Special Olympics in Canada,” said Bollenbach. “We thank the government of Canada for officially recognizing Special Olympics and Special Olympics Team Canada and for supporting our shared vision of ‘sport for all’.”
Special Olympics Canada is the sole organization providing a comprehensive playground to podium sport experience for Canadians of all ages with an intellectual disability. The World Games are only one aspect of the Special Olympics movement. Special Olympics Canada delivers grassroots programming in communities across Canada to over 45,000 athletes ranging in age from the age of two to adulthood. These programs are supported by more than 21,500 dedicated volunteers including more than 16,000 trained coaches who volunteer their time, skills and talents to support individuals with an intellectual disability. Special Olympics is a catalyst for social change. Its programs:
* Instill confidence, self-esteem and other life skills in athletes.
* Contribute to healthier athletes with life-long physical fitness habits.
* Change attitudes and create a more inclusive society.
* Strengthen communities.
TEAM CANADA BACKGROUND:
The 108 athletes who participated in the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria in March 2017 worked extremely hard to get there. At the 2017 World Winter Games, Special Olympics Team Canada athletes competed in six different sports, including: alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating, floor hockey, snowshoeing and speed skating.