When people think of Special Olympics, they often think of the Paralympics, a single sporting event, or activity for “the kids.”
These are common misconceptions, but misconceptions they are. The primary focus of Special Olympics is to enrich the lives of individuals with an intellectual disability through sport. The focus on intellectual disabilities is what differentiates Special Olympics from the Paralympics, which serves individuals with physical disabilities. The International Olympic Committee recognizes Special Olympics and Paralympics as two separate and distinct sports organizations that meet the needs of two separate communities of athletes.
It is also easy to see why people might think of Special Olympics as an event, as it is often an event that captures the public’s attention. Special Olympics does, in fact, have a lot of events and competitions, from the grassroots level to the world stage. However, Special Olympics BC programs involve more than just one sport or annual event: they include sport training activities, social experiences, competitions, health screenings, and celebration events. In 55 communities throughout BC, weekly sport training programs and competition are offered in up to 18 different summer and winter sports.
As for Special Olympics being just for “kids”, there are young children involved. In fact, Special Olympics designed a program called Active Start to engage children as young as two years of age in activities focused on motor movement. But the Special Olympics program is not just for kids. The oldest person currently participating in Special Olympics BC programs is over 90 years of age. People with intellectual disabilities of all ages and ability levels can benefit from the life-changing opportunities offered through Special Olympics.
From Feb. 21 through 23, 2019, Greater Vernon will host the 2019 Special Olympics BC Winter Games. Over 800 athletes and coaches will converge on the Greater Vernon area to showcase their skills and compete against others of similar ability. While this is an event, it is only one aspect of the Special Olympics organization.
To earn the right to compete in these Games, athletes with intellectual disabilities have trained hard in weekly sport training programs offered by Special Olympics in their home community. They then competed and qualified in regional winter competitions, and have continued training in their sport for the year leading up to the Games in Vernon. Similarly, the Games in Greater Vernon will act as a qualifier for the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Thunder Bay in February 2020. The Games in Vernon will act as the culmination of years of hard work for those who will compete in the 2019 Winter Games.
Special Olympics is not the Paralympics, they are not just an event, and they are not just for “kids.” They are inspiring, fun, and life-changing. Get involved and experience what others already know to be an unbelievable opportunity. Volunteer or donate to the 2019 Special Olympics BC Winter Games.
Visit www.sobcgamesvernon.ca for information on how you can get involved, or to learn more about the Games.
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