All-star send off for Special Olympian
Placentia’s Jon Roache heads to Corner Brook for Winter Games
It was a dream come true for Jonathan Roache of Placentia on Tuesday, Feb. 24, when his school gave him the all-star treatment.
The Laval High School student was preparing for a trip to Corner Brook to compete in ringette — a form of hockey using a ring instead of a puck — at the Special Olympics Winter Games. He had no idea that the student body and staff were ready to give him the surprise of his life.
“His teammates respect him a lot for a newcomer. I believe it’s the best move that we made for him.”
Jim Roache, father
In a darkened gymnasium with spotlights beamed towards the stage, student council president Shauna Griffiths made an introduction.
“Standing at five-foot-five in Grade 11, I present to you our slapshot superstar,” she told the packed gym.
Jon appeared from behind the curtains with his arms raised.
The packed gymnasium echoed with cheers and hollers as Jon ran through the crowd, high fiving the entire student population.
“I’m not sure how many people realize what a big deal this is, but Jon is representing the east coast at this particular tournament … It’s like Canada’s Winter Games... This is Newfoundland’s version for the Special Olympics,” principal Gordon Pike told the students. “Jon, we wish you the best of luck, buddy.”
The 16-year-old, who is not a big talker, admitted it was one of the best days of school so far.
The face of John’s father Jim beams with pride when he speaks about his son.
“He is just so excited about playing hockey,” Jim told The Compass
Jon looked up from the table and made a muscle with his right arm.
“I like to work out,” smiled the youth, who practices in St. John’s for two hours every Sunday.
The St. John’s team has welcomed him with open arms. The only other possible team he could play with was Mount Pearl. There are no other ringette teams in the region.
“His teammates respect him a lot for a newcomer,” Jim explained. “I believe it’s the best move that we made for him.”
Jim said his family has discussed the idea of moving somewhere else so John can access more opportunities. But seeing how good the school staff and students are to Jon, it just made sense to keep him at Laval.
In fact, the last thing he was invited to do the night before he went to his big competition was to drop the puck at a local hockey game.
“Everyone is amazing,” Jim said. “It would put you in tears sometimes to see the things everyone does for Jon.”
After the short chat, Jon led the way to the gym so The Compass reporter could snap a photo.
“Hey Jon,” one school staff member called out.
“How’s it going buddy?” said another.
Jon is well-liked and well-respected at Laval High School.
His mom Michelle couldn’t be there for the interview, but she is Jon’s biggest supporter, and attends most of his practices with him.
Special Olympics competition
Jon left Placentia and hit the road to Corner Brook last Friday. It’s something he has been looking forward tohis first provincial competition for a long time.
Over 130 athletes from age 10 to over 60 competed in events such as ringette, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and curling. Some 100 coaches were also in attendance.
The weekend event was a test run for next year’s big competition, when Corner Brook will host the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games.
Jim isn’t sure if Jon’s team will qualify for a national competition, but he is happy just to see him compete.
Jon’s most excited about seeing his friends, attending the dance and having fun.
For more information on the Special Olympics and the Winter Games, visit www.sonl.ca or visit the Facebook group at Special Olympics Newfoundland and Labrador.
Jonathan Roache competed in Corner Brook at the 2015 provincial Special Olympics Winter Games in the sport of ringette.