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INTERNATIONAL GAMES ATHLETE PROFILES

December 28 1992
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INTERNATIONAL GAMES ATHLETE PROFILES

December 28 1992

INTERNATIONAL GAMES ATHLETE PROFILES

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Founded in Canada in 1969, CSO has a simple mandate: to open the door to fitness, sport and recreation to people of all age levels and all intellectual abilities. Primarily, the organization achieves this goal through a network of community offices that establish and run a variety of sports programs including floor hockey, skiing, swimming and track and field.

Among the 1,600 competitors who will gather for the Special Olympics winter games in Salzburg and Schladming next March will be 104 athletes from Canada. Like each and every Canadian Special Olympian, the following five individuals, all of whom have excelled in their chosen sport at regional and national competitions, share a common goal as they look forward to their Austrian adventure. It is to do their

very best.

This 29-year-old Victoria resident has developed into one of the country’s finest on-ice Special Olympians. Since joining a local Special Olympics skating program in 1989, Shaw, who is also active in track and field, soccer and rhythmic gymnastics, has won two gold medals at regional and national figure skating competitions.

Given her training schedule, the accomplishments are not surprising. Whether working with Barbara Turner, her Special Olympics coach, or sharing ice time with members of the Victoria Figure Skating Club, Shaw routinely dons the blades for a oneto three-hour practice session six days a week.

Meanwhile, 11 chapters (one in each province and one in Yukon) as well as CSO’s Toronto-based national office maintain an on-going program of regional, national and international sports meets. As well as enabling thousands of athletes to live up to their potential in sport, Special Olympics has also done much to engender a more positive public perception toward mental retardation. “Twenty years ago, it was common for people to shy away from people who were different” says Bill L’Heureux, CSO’s chairman. “But, because of organizations like Special Olympics that’s begun to change.”

Given the organization’s accomplishments, it’s heartening to learn that one particular Canadian, Frank Hayden, a pioneering physical fitness researcher played a seminal role in the creation of Special Olympics. Says the Burlington, Ont. resident: “When I began my research in the early ’60s, we discovered that kids with mental handicaps were half as fit as other children. It was easy to understand why. The common wisdom of the time was that these people couldn’t do well in sports or physical activities. So, they were allowed to languish.”

It was an assumption that Hayden himself wouldn’t accept. Working with a control group of kids on an intense fitness program, he proved that, given the opportunity, people with learning difficulties had the ability to do well in sport.

Inspired by his discoveries, Hayden began to search for a means of developing a national fitness program for people with mental handicaps. It was a goal he finally achieved - albeit not in Canada. “My work came to the attention of the Washington-based Kennedy Foundation, an organization that has long endeavored to improve the lives of people with mental disabilities,” recalls Hayden. “Eventually, my work led to the creation of Special Olympics.”

One year later, thanks to the efforts of the late Red Foster, the Toronto ad agency executive, sports broadcaster and long-time supporter of

CANADIAN SPECIAL OLYMPICS 3

persons with disabilities, Special Olympics made its Canadian debut.

George Ennis is one individual who’s glad it did. “Special Olympics has given so much to our family - especially Corrie,” he says. “Her experience as a Special Olympian has given her the confidence she needs to go out into the world and do her best. And that’s terrific.”

“LET ME WIN BUT IF I CANNOT WIN LET ME BE BRAVE ¡I THE ATTEMPT.”

Special Olympics Motto

1993 INTERNATIONAL GAMES

hen the opening ceremonies begin for the V Special Olympics World Winter Games in Schladming and Salzburg, Austria on March 21, 150 Canadian athletes and coaches, will be sharing in the celebrations.

There will be much to cheer about. Since the first winter games were held in Steamboat Springs, Colo., in 1977 - an event that attracted 500 athletes - Special Olympics winter games have grown phenomenally. It’s expected that approximately 10,000 coaches and volunteers as well as 20,000 spectators will be on hand to root for the 1,600 athletes from more than 50 countries who will participate in the sports of alpine and Nordic skiing, speed and figure skating, and floor hockey.

Such a party requires intense preparation. Says Lynne Hallinan, Canadian Special Olympics national program director and chef de mission for the Austrian games: “Since last spring, everyone involved has been going full tilt in preparation for March.” In Hallinan’s case, “going full tilt” has meant overseeing everything from the selection of the athletes and coaches to working out travel details with Washington-based Special Olympics International. “There are literally thousands of details for our people to take care of,” she says.

That’s a fact that George Reitmeier from Red Deer, Alta., can appreciate. A former radar technician with the Canadian Armed Forces who is now retired, Reitmeier is one of 34 international team coaches who have been busy preparing Special Olympians for the upcoming competition. “Since last summer, I have put my players on a regular training schedule,” says the 59-

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¡f¡¡jSi I U ; Corrie Ennis smiles and

nods in agreement when George Ennis, her father, describes her as “a bit of a jock.” It’s an apt characterization of the 20-year-old Calgarian who has been chosen to represent Canada in three speed skating events in Salzburg next spring. An avid skater, swimmer and basketball player with 50 Special Olympics medals to her credit, Ennis is involved in sports on a year-round basis. Says the outgoing young woman who also manages to hold down a permanent part-time job at a local fast-food restaurant, “I like to keep busy.” Currently concentrating on improving her starts during a one-day-a-week, Special Olympics speed skating training program, Ennis notes that she has two goals to achieve at the upcoming international games: “I hope to skate my best and have fun.”

4 CANADIAN SPECIAL OLYMPICS

year-old who is the head coach of one of two Canadian floor hockey teams going to Austria. “We practise one night a week at the local Michener Centre gym and I’ve managed to arrange exhibition games about once a month.”

A veteran of past national and international Special Olympics meets, Reitmeier has also begun to ensure that his charges will be psychologically ready for the international games. “I want the team members to enjoy themselves,” he says. “But I also want them to keep their goal in mind.”

Achieving a goal is very much in the thoughts of Brandon, Manitoba’s Wayne Bauche. A 35-year-old who won four gold medals in Nordic skiing at the national winter games in Saskatoon earlier this year and who will be a member of Canada’s ski squad in Austria, Bauche has been on a personal training regime for the past 12 months. As well as running and bike riding to build up his strength Bauche regularly works out at the local fitness centre. “I want to be able to do my

best when I go to the games,” he says.

It’s a statement that brings a smile to Hallinan’s lips. “We don’t play national anthems and we don’t tally up medals won by specific countries at Special Olympics international games,” she says. “Instead we celebrate the accomplishments of individual athletes of varying abilities who are participating and doing their very best. Participating and doing one’s best - that’s what Special Olympics is all about.”

CSO IN YOUR BACKYARD

n your mark. Get set. Go.” m On Julie Samery’s command, 10 young athletes take to the pool located in the Canadian Forces Base’s recreation complex in suburban Toronto. As the group of teenagers competes in a practice race, Samery, who has been coaching Special Olympian swimmers for the past five years, cheers on her charges. “You’re doing great,” she shouts to one youngster, a strong swimmer who is steadily pulling ahead of his teammates. “That’s the stuff,” she cries to another, a young woman who has only recently learned to swim.

Noticing one participant who has left his lane to sit by the side of the pool, Samery explains to a visitor that this particular teen is a new member of the swim club. “He’s feeling shy and awkward because he doesn’t know the routine yet,” she says. “But that will change. Give him time and he’ll be out there swimming well and enjoying himself with the others.”

NORDIC SKIING

mm mí ' •

“Wow!”

That was Chris O’Connor’s reaction when he learned last summer that he would be among the Canadian athletes travelling to Austria in 1993. Since participating in Special Olympics winter games in Saskatoon last February — where he won two gold and two silver medals in Nordic skiing — the North Bay high school student has developed a passion for travelling. “You don’t know how delighted I am to be going,” he says. “I love to ski and I’m looking forward to meeting people from all over the world.” Although O’Connor will have to wait until the snow settles before he can begin a regular ski training schedule, the young athlete has not been idle. As well as running to build up his physical stamina, O’Connor has been busy collecting pins bearing the name of his home town and province, which he intends to exchange with other Special Olympian athletes. “I’ve already got 35 pins in my collection but it will be wonderful to get more,” he says.

6 CANADIAN SPECIAL OLYMPICS

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It’s not an idle boast. Along with thousands of other volunteers involved in Canadian Special Olympics community programs across Canada, Samery knows the positive role sport can play in the lives of people with mental handicaps. “The benefits can be quite amazing,” she notes. “As Special Olympics athletes learn that they can do something - and do it well - their self-esteem soars. They gain a feeling of self-worth that carries over into every other aspect of daily living.”

Her view is shared by Norma McCrae, whose 14-year-old son, Raymond, has been a member of Samery’s swim team for two and half years. “Three years ago, Raymond was a very shy boy who never participated in anything,” she says. “But now that he’s learned to swim well, he’s a changed person. He’s got so much more confidence and he’s now willing to try new things.” These days, according to McCrae, Raymond is less inclined to come home from school and

sit silently before the television than he is to be out building his new tree house or working on his bike. “Just thinking about how far he’s come is enough to make my eyes water,” she says.

Raymond McCrae’s success as well as his mother’s delight come as no surprise to Bill L’Heureux, chairman of Canadian Special Olympics. “Whether it’s a weekly floor hockey game in Brandon, Manitoba, a skating organization in Halifax or a swim team in Toronto, the community programs are the nuts and bolts of Special Olympics,” he says. “It’s the place where Special Olympics gets to do its best for the most.”

CSO VOLUNTEERS: MAKING LIFE BETTER

t the base of a ski slope outside of Calgary, George Ennis, a member of the Canadian Ski Patrol who has taught Alpine skiing to Special Olympians for the past three years, is showing a group of young people the fundamentals of the snowplow technique. Half a continent away in Toronto, Bill L’Heureux, managing partner and president of Hees International Bancorp Inc., has taken a moment from his busy schedule to talk to a visitor about his “other job”: chairman of the Canadian Special Olympics. Meanwhile, Lome White, a Metropolitan Toronto Police constable, is already engaged in organizing next summer’s Ontario Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, an important Special Olympics fund-raising organization.

David Croke is one athlete who won’t have to worry about feeling lonely when he journeys to Austria in March. A 31-year-old Montrealer who is a member ot one of two floor hockey teams that Canadian Special Olympics is sending to the international games, Croke will travel in the company of his 14 teammates. Also in attendance will be his father, Gerald, his mother, Jacqueline, and brother, David, three assistant floor hockey coaches who will accompany the players to Europe.

According to Gerald Croke, Special Olympics has been a family affair since he decided to organize a local program eight years ago. “Special Olympics has been like a drug for us,” he says.

“Once we discovered how much fun it was, we were hooked.” Yet as much as all the Crakes have enjoyed participating, Croke notes that it is David who has benefitted most from his involvement in Special Olympics. “It’s very moving to see how much more confidence my son has these days,” he says, “it’s done wonders for him.”

8 CANADIAN SPECIAL OLYMPICS

As the previous examples indicate, Canadian Special Olympics volunteers are a diverse breed. For some individuals, like Ennis, volunteering is a matter of getting involved at a grassroots, community level. “This is where I feel I can do the most good,” says Ennis, the father of 20-year-old Special Olympian Corrie Ennis. “Because of my experience with the Ski Patrol, I felt I had a lot to offer the athletes. What’s more, through Corrie, I had a good understanding of the very positive role that local Special Olympics programs can play in the lives of people with disabilities and their families.”

Other CSO volunteers, with skills in a variety of administrative capacities, prefer to contribute behind the scenes. Unquestionably, it was L’Heureux’s experience as a senior executive of a large company that inspired him to become CSO chairman two years ago. “When I was approached to become the chairman, Special Olympics had matured and was ready to move on to the next generation,” he says. “With the tremendous growth in the national programs, it needed a more sophisticated business strategy and I felt comfortable I could help achieve that goal.” Meanwhile, Special Olympics friends like Lome White find that their niche is the all-important fund raising area. Past chairman of the Metropolitan Toronto Police Track and Field Club, White introduced the American-originated Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics to Canada in 1987. Now established in nine provinces, the Torch Run, in which police and other law enforcement personnel take part in organized relay runs that are supported by local communities, raises over $1 million annually for Canadian Special Olympics. Says an enthusiastic White, “We’ve only just tapped the potential.”

While praising Special Olympics volunteers for their very diversity, Jim Jordan, CSO executive director, insists that everyone who supports the organization shares a common bond. “All these people know that they are making life better - and a lot more fun - for many, many people,” he says.

SPORTS CELEBRITY FESTIVAL

’m sure I lost 20 pounds in perspiration,” quips David Garard, executive vice-president of The Etherington Group, founding corporate sponsor of Sports Celebrities Festival (SCF), an organization that’s dedicated to raising funds and awareness of Special Olympics in Canada. Garard is recalling the first Sports Celebrities Breakfast held in December, 1983. “Unfortunately, I was in charge of the audio-visual presentation,” he says. “Right in the middle of

At age 15, Charlottetown’s Marc McKearney will be one of the youngest Canadian athletes travelling to the upcoming international games. Yet, in spite of his youth, there’s no doubt that McKearney possesses both the personality and experience to attain success as a member of Canada’s Special Olympics speed skating team.

An outgoing youngster who enjoys school and who actively participates in a variety of sports ranging from horseback riding to baseball, McKearney is already a seasoned competitor. Last February, he won a bronze medal in the 300-m speed skating event at the Canadian Special Olympics national games in Saskatoon. Five months later, he was a member of the Prince Edward Island floor hockey team that attended the national summer games held in Summerside, P.E.I. Says Marjorie McKearney, Marc’s mother: “My son is the kind of person who puts 300 per cent of himself into whatever he does.”

10 CANADIAN SPECIAL OLYMPICS

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HOW YOU CAN HELP

Jim Jordan, CSO executive director, well knows the important role volunteers play in ensuring the continuing vitality of Canadian Special Olympics. “If not for the efforts of our coaches and administrators and, particularly, the generosity of many corporations and individuals, we would cease to exist,’’ he says.

If you or your business would like more information or wish to make a contribution of time or financial support to Canadian Special Olympics, please get in touch with your nearest chapter office.

B.C. Special Olympics 1367 West Broadway Suite 226 Vancouver, B.C.

V6H 4A9 (604) 737-3078

Alberta Special Olympics 11759 Groat Road Edmonton, Alberta T5M 3K6 (403)453-8520

Yukon Special Olympics P.O. Box 4007 Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A3S9 (403) 668-6511

Saskatchewan Special Olympics

2205 Victoria Avenue Regina, Saskatchewan S4P 0S4 (306) 780-9247

Manitoba Special Olympics 200 Main Street, 4th Floor Winnipeg, Manitoba R3G 4M2 (204) 985-4230

things, the projector fell over. It was quite embarrassing.”

Yet earlier this month, as 2,000 guests, Special Olympians and over 50 sports stars, including skaters Paul Martini and Barbara Underhill, former Toronto Blue Jay Ernie Whitt and racing great Scott Goodyear gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary Sports Celebrities Breakfast at the Westin Harbour Castle in downtown Toronto, it was clear that SCF’s shaky start was but a memory to smile about. Since reaping a modest $4,300 in its inaugural year, the Festival has gone on to raise more than $2 million for Canadian Special Olympics.

The healthy revenues are a reflection of the organization’s own evolution. For instance, as well as the original breakfast, SCF now holds an annual Celebrity Skate at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square, an event that allows the public to share lunch and a skate with popular sports celebrities. As well, the Festival hosts a yearly Sports Celebrities Auction in Toronto.

At last year’s black tie fete, which The Sports Network carried live to a national television audience, some 700 guests bid on items ranging from trips to the upcoming Special Olympics international games in Austria to a just-born race horse.

With an eye to the future, SCF organizers have every intention of building on the momentum. Says Lea Parrell, the Festival’s executive director: “We have been busy making plans to make Sports Celebrities Festival into a national, year-round affair. This year, for example, we will have fund-raising events in at least five provinces across the country.”

CSO CELEBRITIES

ince he became a household name after winning the gold medal in the 100-m backstroke at the Barcelona Olympics last summer, swimmer Mark Tewksbury’s time is in high demand. Yet, in spite of a busy schedule 24-year-old Calgarian eagerly agreed to act as official spokesman for Sports Celebrities Festival over the coming year. “I was first invited to the Sports Celebrities Breakfast in 1991,” says Tewksbury. “And I had so much fun - that I begged them to let me come back.”

The young super-athlete’s enthusiasm and commitment are far from unique. Indeed, since Canadian Special Olympics was introduced to Canada

CANADIAN SPECIAL OLYMPICS 13

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Ontario Special Olympics 1220 Sheppard Avenue East Willowdale, Ontario M2K 2X1 (416) 495-4301

Quebec Special Olympics 407, boul. St-Laurent Bureau 500 Montreal, Quebec H2Y2Y5 (514) 874-3733

New Brunswick Special Olympics 461 King Street Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B1E5 (506)459-3999

P.E.I. Special Olympics P.O.Box 841 Charlottetown, P.E.I. C1A7L9 (902) 368-4543

Nova Scotia Special Olympics

P.O.Box 3010 South Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J3G6 (902) 425-5450

Nfld. Special Olympics 102-104 Lemarchent Road Suite #205

St. John’s, Newfoundland

A1C2H2

(709) 738-1923

two decades ago, the organization has consistently attracted a stellar cast of Canadian sports and entertainment stars to its cause.

According to Michael Burgess, the former star of the Royal Alexandra Theatre’s production of Les Misérables who is now appearing in Man of La Mancha at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, it’s not hard to understand the lure of Special Olympics. “It’s unlike any other endeavor I’ve been involved in,” says Burgess, who has declared his services to be permanently “on call” to Special Olympics organizers. “It’s so remarkably easy to help the athletes. When you give a little, what you see is people making measurable progress.”

In Toronto, Bill L’Heureux, chairman of Canadian Special Olympics says that it is common for celebrities of the stature of Tewksbury and Burgess to speak about the rewards they themselves have gained from Special Olympics involvement. Yet while he appreciates their perspective, L’Heureux notes that it is very important not to overlook the crucial part sports and entertainment personalities have played in the evolution of the Special Olympics in Canada. “On a grand scale, these public figures, by their very presence, have significantly raised the profile of Special Olympics over the past 20 years,” he says.

Yet, according to CSO’s chairman, the greatest contribution celebrities make occurs at an individual oneto-one level. To illustrate his point, he singles out the work of Lanny McDonald, former star of the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs who is now a member of the board of directors of the Canadian Special Olympics. “Since he first became involved with our organization in its early days, Lanny has talked about the fact that he gets more out of Special Olympics than we get out of him,” says L’Heureux. “Well, that’s simply not true. I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen the pleasure on a young person’s face because this great sports figure has offered a word of encouragement. I’ve never seen Lanny turn away from one of these kids before they are finished wanting to talk or be near him. Like many Special Olympics celebrities, he’s a remarkable person.” □

CANADIAN SPECIAL OLYMPICS 15