As months go, November is all but spoken for by the moustache movement, but for another organization that wants to claim the month as their own; there’s a little less conversation and a little more action.
For the fifth consecutive year, Special Olympics Canada has named November as the month to shed light on the commitment of an estimated three million athletes in over 200 countries worldwide. Joining them are the thousands of coaches and volunteers that donate their time, knowledge and love of sport.
Bill Strode, the Special Olympics coordinator for the Peterborough area sees first hand the positive impact that the organization and its volunteers has on the participants of the program.
“It makes quite a bit of difference in their life,” states Strode. “It gives them a chance to be social and active.”
In the Peterborough area alone, close to 70 coaches and 300 athletes compete in a variety of sports. These activities include baseball, bowling, floor and ice hockey, soccer, snow-shoeing, swimming and track and field.
Local standout distance runner Adam Guthrie is probably the most noteworthy of participants through his domination on the track at all levels. Guthrie was a member of the Canadian contingent that traveled to Athens and brought home a Special Olympic gold and silver medal in the 5000 and 3000 meet events respectively.
Peterborough also has the honour of having the outstanding dedication and support of the Peterborough-Lakefield Police services. It is the number one police force in North America for its support of the Special Olympics program per capita. The Peterborough Fire department also pays annual visits to local events to pay tribute to our dedicated athletes.
In 2007, former Peterborough Police Terry McLaren was inducted in the Special Olympics Ontario Sponsors Hall of Fame for his instrumental efforts in the Law Enforcement Torch Run campaign.
The Special Olympics organization, established in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, was originally an idea for a one-time Olympic-style athletic competition for people with special needs. The event drew more than 1,000 athletes from across the United States and Canada. Shriver was the sister to former U.S. President John F. Kennedy.
Since its inception, the organization has not only gained momentous popularity, but recognition from the able-bodied sport community as well. In 1971 the International Olympic Committee gave official approval for the use of the word “Olympics” and in 1988, was officially recognized by the association.
The organizations first international Special Olympics Winter games were held in 1977 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Locally, the Peterborough chapter just finished a Special Olympics invitational swim meet at Trent University last weekend. There, last year’s national gold medal winner and Peterborough native Luke Flynn won gold and silver in two of his four events.
The next event is scheduled for this weekend at St. Peters high school, where Strode is preparing for a nine-team floor hockey tournament.
For those interested in volunteering their time and knowledge to the programs offered by the Peterborough chapter please contact Bill Strode, Peterborough Special Olympics coordinator email@example.com.