CORNER BROOK Special Olympics is more about the power to change lives for the better than crossing the finish line first.
It’s about the power to change minds about the roles that people with intellectual disabilities should play in society and change behaviours to create a world of respect and inclusion.
Some of the enthusiastic athletes competing in the 2011 Special Olympics Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games Feb. 18-20 in Corner Brook have no doubt blossomed because of their involvement in the program.
Athletes, coaches and volunteers participating in the provincial Games gathered at Corner Brook Regional High Thursday for the official opening of the RBC Athletes Village.
Representatives from RBC — who will be sponsoring the Athletes Villages for Special Olympics right across the country this year, along with Corner Brook Mayor Neville Greeley and representatives of the city’s high school joined Special Olympics Newfoundland and Labrador executive director Nelson White for the media event promoting the Games.
Hope Wiseman’s daughter Patricia Wiseman has been a familiar face on the Special Olympics scene for a number of years and has participated in a number of sports during both provincial winter and summer Games.
“Patricia has grown more and learned more from Special Olympics than anything else,” Hope Wiseman, an avid volunteer with the organization said after the press conference came to a close.
Wiseman wants people to realize that Special Olympians train hard for the Games and focus more on having fun and meeting friends than they do trying to be a champion.
She also pointed out that several of the Special Olympians hold down jobs and make a valuable contribution to society just like everybody else.
She encourages people to check out the action in three sports — floor hockey, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing — to see first-hand how Special Olympians display athleticism, courage and sportsmanship not seen in the realm of sports whereby regular athletes excel with winning the ultimate goal.
Catherine White is a huge supporter of the Special Olympic movement because she has seen how her foster son James Pike has grown since getting involved.
There was a time when James wasn’t confident enough to go to the library or the mall by himself, and he was distant when it came to socializing or striking up a conversation.
That’s all changed.
“He is more open now. He talks to people no problem now,” said White, who was so pleased to see James chatting with Adam Buckle of RBC during the gathering.
Buckle, branch manager for the local RBC branch on West Street, was joined by several co-workers in announcing the company’s sponsorship of the Athletes Village.
“As a long-standing supporter of Special Olympics, we are proud to provide a safe and comfortable place for the athletes to live while they’re competing,” Buckle said.
He praised the work of those who make the program a reality.
“All athletes need a chance to participate, overcome challenges and achieve their personal best,” he said.
“Special Olympics provides that opportunity for a very exceptional group of athletes.
Perhaps Special Olympian Erica Bullen put it all in perspective.
“I want to go out and have fun,” said the daughter of Corner Brook’s Tony and Karen Bullen.