Inspiring send-off for Special Olympics Team Canada in Vancouver
When the 141 members of Special Olympics Team Canada were all gathered together in one place for the very first time, the atmosphere was electric. A wave of beaming faces and proudly sported red team jackets and shirts spilled into the Vancouver Convention Centre’s Parkview Terrace room on the evening of Thursday, January 24.
With the team all assembled in Vancouver at long last, it was time to celebrate and inspire.
Thursday saw the Special Olympics Team Canada members arriving at Vancouver International Airport throughout the day, and those members who had reached YVR by mid-day joined a fun and energizing team rally at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport hotel.
Special Olympics Team Canada’s inspiring Honorary Coach Catriona Le May Doan reminded the team to relish the World Games experience and savour the fact that they’re earned the right to represent Canada.
“Every day, stop for a moment – just stop and look around you, and say, ‘Wow, this is amazing,’” Le May Doan said.
The rally included three Olympic medallists cheering on Special Olympics Team Canada, including Le May Doan. Cathy Priestner Allinger, Chair of the 2014 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games set to be held in Vancouver, emceed the event to salute the team. And Crazy Canuck Steve Podborski, TELUS National Director, Community Sport, honoured the team with his support and the announcement that TELUS is donating cell phones to all members of Special Olympics Team Canada to keep in touch at the World Games and keep when they get back!
Jennifer Campbell, Special Olympics Team Canada Chef de Mission, and Special Olympics Canada Chair Beverley Hammond shared how proud they are and inspired by the team members.
“You know how few Canadians get to represent their country?” Hammond marvelled. “It’s truly an honour, and you deserve it. You worked really hard to get here.”
In the evening, joined by many proud supporters including the Honourable Bal Gosal, Minister of State (Sport), the team celebrated the year of achievements and hard work that brought them to this moment. The Special Olympics Team Canada Celebration Dinner was an exciting and energizing event that saw the team saluted by fans and supporters including Le May Doan, Minister Gosal, Podborski, and Special Olympics Canada President and CEO Lindsay Glassco.
One of the amazing highlights was Le May Doan’s announcement of the selection of cross-country skier Rachel Bleau as the flagbearer for Special Olympics North America at the World Games! Meet Rachel.
Co-emcees Cynthia Simmons, Special Olympics Team Canada speed skater from the Northwest Territories, and Jason Pires, CTV British Columbia sportscaster, led the evening with grace and humour. Great speakers like Team Canada East floor hockey player Matthew Nighswander made for a truly inspiring evening.
Wearing their red gear proudly, the team members were able to celebrate their achievements and enjoy the moment before embarking on the big journey to Korea on Friday, January 25.
“It’s been my childhood dream to be a member of Team Canada, and now that I’m living that dream – I’m going to say the d-word – I’m damn proud to be a member of Team Canada,” said alpine skier Larry Green of Alberta.
Check out photos from the Vancouver send-off events on our Flickr account!