Lizzie Baril a Special Olympics athlete from Red Deer has been recognized nationally for her efforts to help others. (Contributed photo)

Lizzie Baril a Special Olympics athlete from Red Deer has been recognized nationally for her efforts to help others. (Contributed photo)

Red Deer’s Lizzy Baril celebrated as ‘Champion of Inclusion’

Lizzy Baril has loved the Special Olympics Alberta since the day she got involved and has no plans to slow down anytime soon.

Baril, a Red Deer native, was recently recognized by Special Olympics Canada as a Champion of Inclusion in its new Choose to Include initiative.

Along with her positive attitude and efforts as a motivating force for others in the community, Baril is being celebrated for her work with PEAK (Provincial Exercise and Activity Knockout), a virtual program that brings athletes together online to create fitness goals and virtual training sessions as a complement to traditional, in-person programming.

“I’m still shocked at receiving the award. It’s very different to be recognized for this. I’m grateful and honoured because Special Olympics is such a great movement to represent,” she said.

“I got involved for the community. Just everything I’ve seen from Special Olympics is super awesome. They’re super welcoming and it’s just such a welcoming atmosphere.”

Baril, who is a Special Olympics swimmer, said the pandemic has been extremely difficult on Special Olympics athletes like herself and it helps keep her motivated when she helps others.

“It’s been such a challenge. I definitely do better when the PEAK program is running. I do more fitness at home, more workouts with YouTube videos. As far as getting to the pool, that has been very limited. I miss it a ton,” she said.

“It’ll be so good (to get back).”

In helping with an eventual return to competition for Special Olympics athletes, Tim Hortons has teamed up with the organization to launch a Choose to Include donut.

One hundred per cent of the proceeds raised from the sale of the donuts, which will be on sale from Jan. 28- 30, goes towards helping Special Olympics’ athletes reach their full potential.

“The need for funding to help our community prepare for the safe return to sport for Special Olympics athletes and volunteers is urgent,” said Sharon Bollenbach, CEO, Special Olympics Canada.

“People with intellectual disabilities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and limited access to social and physical activities have played a major role in the challenges our community is facing. Every Choose To Include donut purchased for our cause makes a difference and we look forward to seeing Canadians take part in our movement.”