Special Olympics NWT has tested the waters in Hay River with an eye to possibly offering some programming in the community.
That was the objective of a ‘Try-It Day’ on Dec. 8, although nothing is yet planned or promised by Special Olympics NWT.
Four residents from Territorial Supportive Living Services, a delegation of seven from Special Olympics NWT and local volunteers gathered at the Rec Centre to try rhythmic gymnastics and swimming.
“This is an opportunity to come down to Hay River to find out what the interest is here among the potential athletes and what the interest is among the potential volunteers, and see if we can start something, start something slow,” said Alan Cash, president of Special Olympics NWT.
Cash noted the organization started very slowly in Yellowknife years ago and now has over 40 athletes and over 40 volunteers.
Special Olympics NWT is based in Yellowknife and most of its programming takes place in the capital city. There is no programming offered in Hay River.
However, Cash was impressed by the ‘Try-It Day’ in Hay River.
“There’s lots of enthusiasm here. The athletes seem enthusiastic,” he said. “It’s great to see a core of volunteers start to develop. So hopefully something with come of it. It will be baby steps. The key to everything we do is all around the athletes, and if they have the interest and the volunteers are here to support them, then the future is unlimited.”
Cash noted that setting up Special Olympics programming takes a lot of effort.
“It doesn’t just happen overnight,” he said. “It takes a lot of work behind the scenes. It takes dedication. It takes a lot of volunteer hours. But you have to start somewhere, and I think this is an excellent start.”
Jack Duffy, the sports program development officer with Special Olympics NWT, explained the organization is for athletes with intellectual disabilities.
“In the long run, we’re going to be looking to see if Hay River is a possible place where we can run programs in the future,” he said.
The delegation from Yellowknife for the ‘Try-It Day’ included, along with Duffy, two board members of Special Olympics NWT, its gymnastics and swimming head coaches, and two athletes.
Christina Morris, a personal outcome support worker with Territorial Supportive Living Services in Hay River, welcomed the ‘Try-It Day’.
“I know the clients were super stoked when they heard about this simply because we try to incorporate activities of daily living on a regular basis,” she said. “So this certainly is a great segue to that.”
Morris hopes that Hay River may eventually get some Special Olympics programming.
“It would be wonderful because I’m sure that a lot of people would utilize it and it would be a great way to be able to have inclusion,” she said, adding it will help the participants learn new skills and be active.
“So hopefully that will happen,” Morris added. “Certainly, I think there’s a need for it.”
Jean-Marc Dupras, a client at Territorial Supportive Living Services, was previously involved in Special Olympics in London, Ont.
Dupras said he enjoys Special Olympics and it’s good to be active, adding, “I do have fun.”