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Vernon Vipers promote Special Olympics with ceremonial puck drop

A record crowd saw local athletes drop the puck at Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks
Vernon Special Olympics athletes Reid Nicholson (left grey T-shirt), Darren Fisher and Oliver Nicholson drop the puck at the Vernon Vipers game against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, with Fisher’s dad, Marc Fisher (red shirt), and the Nicholsons’ mother Jessica getting an up-close view. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

A ceremonial puck drop at the Vernon Vipers game over the weekend was a special moment for Darren Fisher and Reid and Oliver Nicholson, and a welcome chance to promote the countless moments of enjoyment, triumph and belonging provided by the Special Olympics.

A record crowd of 3,156 fans came out to see the Vipers defeat the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 5-2 at Kal Tire Place Saturday, Feb. 3, making it the perfect night for Vernon Special Olympics to bring out a few local athletes to drop the puck at centre ice.

The ceremonial puck drop was borne out of partnerships between Vernon Special Olympics, the Vipers and Tim Horton’s. The restaurant chain has partnered with Special Olympics Canada for a fifth year to raise funds for athletes through the sale of Special Olympics donuts.

The chocolate cake ring donuts were on sale at Tim Horton’s locations from Feb. 2-4, and 100 per cent of the proceeds going to help athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities access better opportunities to reach their full potential in sport and life.

Marc Fisher is the local coordinator for Vernon Special Olympics. At Saturday’s game he stood at centre ice between two number 24s — Vipers defenceman and Coldstream native Connor Elliott and Silverbacks forward Nathan Mackie — and watched his son Darren drop the puck in tandem with fellow local Special Olympics athletes Reid and Oliver Nicholson.

“He loved it,” Marc said of his son, who has Down syndrome, recalling the ride home in the car after the game when all Darren could say was just how much fun he had.

“I think all the boys loved it.”

The Fishers have only been in the North Okanagan for a little over a year. Darren is a big hockey fan, and they usually make it out to about five Kelowna Rockets games each year. Now that they’re closer to the Vernon rink, Marc said they’ll be taking in Vipers games more often.

But aside from creating the Vipers’ next biggest fan, the puck drop was a chance to promote the many benefits that the Special Olympics bring to communities.

This year is Vernon’s 40th anniversary of being part of Special Olympics BC. The list of sports in the fall schedule includes basketball, floor hockey, curling, rhythnic gymnastics, swimming, five-pin bowling, powerlifting, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. In the spring, golf, soccer, softball, bocce and track and field are on the schedule.

While the Special Olympics runs on a four-year cycle (the Winter World Games is set for Turin-Piedmont, Italy in 2025), the sports organization brings training activities to millions of individuals worldwide every year.

Todd Miller, executive vice president with the Vipers, said that while the Special Olympics usually gets promoted on the world or national stage, much of its value happens at the local level.

“It was important for us to let people know, especially with a crowd that size on Saturday night, that there is a local element to this and those were local athletes, and local individuals and people who are a big part of our community,” Miller said. “For us to be able to shed a light on what they’re doing locally, it’s important and a very worthwhile organization that I know our group and our organization believes in very heavily.”

Running 16 sports programs throughout the year, Marc said the value of having these programs for people who are often marginalized is immense.

“It gives them a chance to participate, compete, socialize and get some exercise,” Marc said. “It gives intellectually disabled athletes the opportunity to participate and be involved in a community.”

These sports activities are only possible thanks to the work of a dedicated committee of volunteers who help run the local Special Olympics and ensure programs are set up to run smoothly for all of the 103 North Okanagan athletes.

Volunteer coaches are also essential, and the organization is always looking for more help. To get involved, reach out to Marc by email at

For more information on Vernon Special Olympics or to register, click here.

READ MORE: Okanagan athletes named for Special Olympics Canada competition

READ MORE: Vipers balanced attack powers Vernon to 5-2 win over Salmon Arm

Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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