All-star send off for Spe­cial Olympian

Pla­cen­tia’s Jon Roache heads to Cor­ner Brook for Win­ter Games

The Compass - - NEWS - BY MELISSA JENK­INS melissa.jenk­ins@tc.tc

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.

Noth­ing lo­cal

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.

PHOTO BY MELISSA JENK­INS/THE COMPASS

Jonathan Roache com­peted in Cor­ner Brook at the 2015 pro­vin­cial Spe­cial Olympics Win­ter Games in the sport of ringette.

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