Travel, cheering, and competing at the Special Olympics School Championships – Windsor News Today

Travel, cheering, and competing at the Special Olympics School Championships – Windsor News Today

Excitement was in the air Tuesday at the Special Olympics School Championships in Chatham and the athletes couldn’t have been more eager to compete.

Some travelled as far as Thunder Bay to attend the two day event, which brings together high school athletes from all over Ontario to compete in five different sports: bocce ball, basketball, floorball, soccer, and track and field.

Coach Denis Aselin, from La Citadelle high school in Cornwall, was there with his unified soccer team, a team made up athletes with and without disabilities who play together to create inclusivity and friendship. This is his third time attending the provincial games as coach, and he agrees the excitement was palpable.

“It’s not something they can do everyday. It’s very limited the number of players that are doing it and they can say they were part of this – we came to Chatham for the provincials,” said Aselin.

The whole experience of coming to Chatham-Kent is new for Aselin and some of his team members, some of whom have never been this far past the Toronto/Niagara region.

“It was something special…it was very long to get here, seven or eight hours, but it was worth it, it was fun,” said Aselin.

La Citadelle teammates Jaziah Meade and Eddie Tardif love that they got this opportunity to compete in the Special Olympics School Championships and agree with their coach that this is something special.

“Getting ask to play here is an opportunity. We don’t get to do this often. It’s a once in a lifetime chance,” said Tardif.

Meade echoed his teammates’ sentiment, saying “it was worth it to come here. I would do it again.”

Bambi Arnold from Sarnia might not have travelled as far as the players from Cornwall, but the grandmother, who is here to cheer on her grandson, Alexander Mackenzie goalie Logan Arnold-Martin.

“I’m extremely proud Logan is here today. I definitely wanted to come out and support the school and my grandson and I hope they do really well in the tournament,” said Arnold. “I think it’s important that children that have difficulties have opportunities as well.”

These games couldn’t run without the countless volunteers who donated their time to help the event go off without a hitch. Sisters Barb Hammond and Elizabeth Dean have a very special connection to these Special Olympics being in Chatham-Kent.

“Our mother was heavily involved with fundraising and organizing the last time we had the Special Olympics games here in 1997 and I was probably 16 at the time, so we were also heavily involved in fundraising and helping out” said Hammond. “And when we heard they were coming back again we thought, we are going to jump in.”

Volunteering in honour of their mother, the sisters are the site leads for the St. Clair College location of the games, and are happy that the games are back in Chatham-Kent.

“It’s amazing, and it probably should have happened a long time ago but we are thankful that it happened now. It’s such a great experience and I cannot talk enough about what you get from volunteering for something like this. The athletes and seeing their joy in participating in the sport makes it worth it for sure,” said Hammond.

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