Special Olympics Volunteers Make Difference Through Sport

Special Olympics Volunteers Make Difference Through Sport

Special Olympics BC is dedicated to enriching the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities through sport. Their vision is that sport will open hearts and minds towards people with intellectual disabilities and create inclusive communities all across British Columbia.

Special Olympics BC started in 1980 but Special Olympics has been a global movement longer than that. They offer programs all across BC, however in the Okanagan region, they support Kamloops, Kelowna, Keremeos, Revelstoke, Penticton, Salmon Arm, Shuswap (Chase and surrounding areas), South Okanagan (Oliver and Osoyoos), Summerland, and Vernon. Leanne Kelly is the Community Development Coordinator for this region and she says they are also trying to re-start programs in Merritt, Princeton, and Clearwater as well. If you are interested in making a huge difference in someone’s life through sports, Special Olympics BC may be the organization for you.

Originally from Vancouver, Leanne has been in Kelowna since 2018 and also started working for Special Olympics BC that same year.

“I was drawn to be part of the organization because I really enjoy advocating for health and physical activity for folks within the disability community,” says Leanne. “my role struck me as a great way to do this for those with an intellectual disability!”

“We are separate from the paralympics/olympics, and actually run year-round programs,” Leanne shares what many people may not know about her organization. “Our programs are for people with intellectual disabilities, and we have eligibility criteria that individuals have to meet to participate in our programs.”

Volunteers play a key role in making the wide array of programs run in so many communities.

“Volunteers are how we get programs to happen for our athletes,” explains Leanne. “They do the behind the scenes work on getting programs going by sitting on the local committee and booking facilities, recruiting coaches, volunteers and athletes, etc.”

“Volunteers also coach our sport programs that run from September to June each year,” adds Leanne. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to offer these opportunities for athletes.”

All volunteers need to complete registration forms as well as a criminal record check to get involved. Most programs run from September to June of each year and are split between Winter and Summer sports. As the programs are a minimum of 12 weeks and many go longer than this, most volunteers tend to commit for medium or long-term stints, although Leanne says that they are making short-term opportunities available for volunteers also.

“Working with the athletes is incredibly rewarding – you get to meet new individuals and change your mindset on the abilities and capabilities of our athletes,” enthuses Leanne. “You also get a chance to meet other volunteers across BC and potentially across Canada. There can also be some possible travel perks when going to competitions that are at no cost to the volunteer other than your time.”

“You will also be able to learn valuable and transferrable skills,” adds Leanne. “We provide lots of training and professional development opportunities.”

“Volunteering gives me a sense of purpose,” shares Leanne. “I can give back to my community and create an inclusive environment for those I come in contact with.”

For anyone interested in finding their purpose through volunteering, get in touch with Leanne at Lkelly@specialolympics.bc.ca and my phone number is 778-581-0511. Their website is – https://www.specialolympics.ca/british-columbia.

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