Not everyone can win events at the spring Special Olympics but every participant is a winner, say officials.
“That’s what they live by,” said Jerry Tennant, Red Deer spring Special Olympic games organizing committee chairman.
“They do they do their best, they cheer on those who are doing well, they’re excited for anyone who wins and just participating is the big thing for any of them.”
On April 19, about 800 athletes, coaches, support staff, supporters and volunteers will arrive in Red Deer. That afternoon, the games get underway and continue through Sunday, April 21.
The events include five- and 10-pin bowling, basketball and swimming.
“We have 300 five-pin bowlers and they’ll start Friday (April 19) afternoon,” said Tennant.
The opening ceremonies at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School begin at 7 p.m. on April 19. The public is welcome to attend this event, which includes the Law Enforcement Torch Run featuring Alberta law enforcement members.
Competitions continue on Saturday, followed by a banquet and dance at Westerner Park in the evening.
The games wrap up on Sunday by about 2 p.m. with medal presentations.
Five-pin bowling takes place at Heritage Lanes, 10-pin at Riverside Bowl, swimming at Michener Centre and basketball at Notre Dame High School.
Organizers are 90 per cent ready for the event. There are last minute details to finalize, specifically food and accommodations.
“It’s been a lot of work, we’ve been working on it for just under a year,” said Tennant. “Normally you have almost two years to do this sort of thing, so it has been a lot of work.”
Competitors will stay at Harvard Business Centre at Springbrook in the former cadet barracks and will be bused back and forth to events in buses provided by the Red Deer Catholic School District.
“This is a highlight for the special athletes,” said Tennant. “From here they could even be chosen to go on to national or international events.
“It is very high competition. There is a lot of excitement.”
Athletes come from about 30 communities for the event, stretching north to the Northwest Territories, south to Lethbridge, east to Lloydminster and west to Rocky Mountain House.
“They have a variety of intellectual disabilities, some even have physical disabilities, but these individuals are just as capable as able-bodied to participate, succeed and enjoy themselves,” said Tennant.
“The important thing is participation as much as the winning.”
The event had a budget of $150,000. The money was raised through donations, sponsorships and grants.
The opening ceremonies and athletic events are open to the public and are free to attend.
“I think they’d be quite surprised at the calibre of expertise that some of these athletes will display,” said Tennant.