The Special Olympics B.C. program offered in Burns Lake kicked off recently with an opportunity for local participants to try their hand at curling.
Several volunteer coaches offered advice to first time curlers, as well as a number of participants that had curled before.
Special Olympics B.C.’s mission is to provide individuals with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to enrich their lives and celebrate personal achievement, through positive sporting experiences. It is a non profit initiative offering year round sports programs and competitions for approximately 3,900 athletes in 55 B.C. communities.
Special Olympics local coordinator St. Sgt. Grant MacDonald from the Burns Lake RCMP detachment said to Lakes District News that the sports offered in each community depends on volunteers and coaches available.
He said he has been involved with the Special Olympics program since 1992. “It provides an opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way and it not only makes a difference to the lives of the athletes, but it makes a difference in the lives of the volunteers.”
He said, “There was a Special Olympics program previously running in Burns Lake for a number of years but it suffered from volunteer burnout. Now there is a renewed interest in the program and it is up and running again in Burns Lake.”
Seventeen locals have registered for curling and he said the program needs more local volunteers and coaches.
“We are now looking at purchasing a special stick that hooks on to the [curling] rock to make it easier for those with ability issues to curl,” he said. Until the end of March, Special Olympics curling is being offered on Wednesdays at the Burns Lake Curling Club. “After April 1, there will be track and field events and we will be looking at skiing for next winter.”
According to St. Sgt. MacDonald, 10 pin bowling was also a popular local Special Olympics activity. “Unfortunately the bowling alley in Burns Lake has closed down, but due to the popularity of bowling we are looking at bocce for next year, as this may also be equally as appealing to the athletes.”
There is no cost to participate in the Special Olympics program, which has been running in communities across B.C. for more than 30 years.
Across the province, there is more than 2,900 dedicated volunteers that have signed on to provide training in a variety of sporting activities.
Special Olympics athletes may choose to participate in the program on a recreational level, or aim to compete at regional, provincial, national or even in international events.
Special Olympics B.C. say that by participating in sports, athletes are given the chance to gain sport skills and improve their health while enjoying social interaction.
Benefits from the program go well beyond the basics, as the athletes experience joy and acceptance, cultivate friendships and self confidence and feel empowered to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals.
Winter activities can include curling, cross country skiing, figure skating, floor hockey, snow shoeing and alpine skiing. During spring and summer, soccer, softball and track and field are some of the sports on offer in Special Olympics communities.
For more information about the program, or to volunteer contact St. Sgt. Grant MacDonald at 250-692-7171 or at www.specialolympics.bc.ca.