Sports for all the aim

Special Olympics of­fi­cials hold event to in­tro­duce younger kids to ac­tiv­i­ties, pro­grams

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - FRONT PAGE - GREG COWAN

Special Olympics On­tario wants sports to be the great equal­izer and their Sports Fes­ti­val at East Ridge Com­mu­nity School on Tues­day was part of that ef­fort.

El­e­men­tary stu­dents with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties from across the Blue­wa­ter District School Board joined to­gether for a day of “abil­ity-ap­pro­pri­ate” games and ac­tiv­i­ties pro­mot­ing phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and healthy liv­ing.

The grow­ing pro­gram now in­volves more than 20 events across the prov­ince in­tro­duc­ing stu­dents, teach­ers, and fam­i­lies to the Special Olympics and their lo­cal ac­tiv­i­ties.

“The whole point of the sports fes­ti­val is to en­gage younger ath­letes in sports and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and pro­vide a sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment,” said Josh Bud­ish, a pro­gram di­rec­tor with Special Olympics On­tario. “It’s re­ally meant to be an en­try point to the Special Olympics move­ment and pro­vide a re­ally happy ex­pe­ri­ence. If they have fun here it’s more likely they’ll re­main in sports through­out their lives.”

The gym at East Ridge was split in two with younger ath­letes de­vel­op­ing their skills with games of tag, soc­cer, in­door curl­ing and bowl­ing. The older stu­dents par­tic­i­pated in sport-spe­cific ac­tiv­i­ties build­ing teams and play­ing pick-up bas­ket­ball.

“Bowl­ing is al­ways a big hit,” said Bud­ish. “You would think the kids would get bored of rolling a ball over and over again, but when they see those pins just ex­plode all over the place it’s like you’ve never seen kids so happy in your life.”

Barb King is in­volved with the Owen Sound & District chap­ter of Special Olympics On­tario and said she wants these in­tro­duc­tory events lead­ing to younger ath­letes tak­ing ad­van­tage of the ac­tiv­i­ties in Owen Sound.

Cur­rently the district of­fers eight Special Olympic sports lo­cally for the fall/win­ter sea­son in­clud­ing 5-pin bowl­ing, bas­ket­ball, floor hockey and swim­ming.

“As an in­di­vid­ual with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties grows older their skill level doesn’t progress the same as other stu­dents, and so we of­ten see these stu­dents not par­tic­i­pat­ing in mi­nor sports,” said King.

Bud­ish of­fered sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments, and noted the Special Olympics started as a way to pre­vent peo­ple with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a neg­a­tive im­pact on their qual­ity of life as they age.

“Peo­ple with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties had so many more is­sues with things like obe­sity and di­a­betes later in life,” said Bud­ish. “Pro­grams like this and other Special Olympics pro­grams which ex­ist in the com­mu­nity are re­ally meant to make sure young ath­letes un­der­stand that be­ing in­volved in sport can be fun and the Special Olympics are there to sup­port what­ever ad­di­tional needs they might have.”

King said her pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in lo­cal schools il­lu­mi­nated the plight of stu­dents with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties who would watch their friends or sib­lings play­ing sports in the com­mu­nity with­out an equal op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate.

“That’s the piece that’s been miss­ing in terms of be­ing a part of the com­mu­nity,” said King.

“As much as we like to think of our com­mu­nity as in­clu­sive I think there’s some things out there which, in order for peo­ple to be fully in­volved, we need to pro­vide these kinds of pro­grams.”

The Special Olympics of­fi­cials hope these school part­ner­ships raise enough aware­ness to grow par­tic­i­pa­tion in lo­cal sports and ac­tiv­i­ties.

“My hope is that they go home and tell their par­ents about how much they en­joyed the Special Olympics and then their mom looks into the swag bag they go home with and pulls out the Owen Sound flyer and gets in touch,” said Bud­ish.

Vol­un­teers from the Owen Sound District Sec­ondary School’s lead­er­ship class helped to or­ga­nize the ac­tiv­i­ties and fa­cil­i­tate the fun.

Visit the Special Olympics On­tario web­site for lo­cal event and reg­is­tra­tion in­for­ma­tion.

GREG COWAN/SUN TIMES STAFF

Josh Bud­ish (cen­tre, red shirt), pro­gram di­rec­tor with Special Olympics On­tario, or­ga­nizes vol­un­teers from the lead­er­ship class of Owen Sound District Sec­ondary School as they pre­pare for the af­ter­noon ses­sion of the Sports Fes­ti­val at East Ridge Com­mu­nity School in Owen Sound on Tues­day.

GREG COWAN/SUN TIMES STAFF

Stu­dents play bas­ket­ball dur­ing the Special Olympics Sports Fes­ti­val at East Ridge Com­mu­nity School on Tues­day. The provin­cial pro­gram aims to in­tro­duce stu­dents with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties to lo­cal Special Olympics ini­tia­tives.

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