Volunteers are Reigniting the Movement in Wood Buffalo

Jennifer Ings (right)

After an extended hiatus, Special Olympics programming returned to Fort McMurray thanks to the efforts of a dedicated new group of volunteers.

One of those volunteers who played a vital role in establishing the Wood Buffalo affiliate was Vice-Chairperson and Secretary, Kimberley MacDougall.

“I decided to become part of the movement because I had been involved previously in Nova Scotia,” said Kimberley.

“I love seeing an athlete reach a personal best goal. It’s those moments where you get the privilege of sharing their joy because of their hard work, dedication, that makes it worthwhile.”

Programs in SOA-Wood Buffalo took off fast, as over 50 volunteers and 35 athletes registered to get involved for the first season.

While programs have since been suspended, the Wood Buffalo board members have continued to plan for programs, successfully fundraise for equipment, and coordinate events.

Kimberley has kept athletes engaged and connected throughout this time, including putting together and delivering care packages for athletes on Christmas Eve.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the athletes again,” said Kimberley. “I love being surrounded by amazing souls inside and out! The athletes are the best part of volunteering.”

They have continued to be active online and share their voice with the community thanks to their new Marketing Coordinator, Jennifer Ings.

“I feel like the values of this organization mirror what’s important to me in my own life and what I want to model for my daughter,” said Jennifer. “I want to promote understanding and acceptance among people, being respectful towards others, and show her all the benefits that come with being part of a team.”

Kimberley MacDougall

Jennifer joined the board in August last year and she has quickly become an impactful member of the affiliate.

While she has already put together some great marketing content, Jennifer is excited to see Wood Buffalo athletes back on the field and to start capturing photos at their programs for the first time.

“Special Olympics is important because it cultivates the inclusion of all people and enhances the lives of those with intellectual disabilities,” said Jennifer. “It allows athletes, volunteers, and coaches to be part of something wonderful.”

With such an incredible group of volunteers, the sky is the limit for Wood Buffalo who are planning to offer bowling and golf when we can return to play safely.

They are also working to implement bocce, powerlifting, floor hockey, and potentially swimming programs in the future as well.

“The goals I have for myself and the affiliate over the next few years is to establish several sports in our area, develop a campaign for athlete recruitment, build an amazing team of well-trained coaches and volunteers, and host some tournaments for our zone,” said Kimberley.

For those volunteers in the Wood Buffalo area looking to get involved, you can email sowbvolunteer@gmail.com to learn about volunteer opportunities that match your availability and skill set.

“I would say do it,” said Jennifer when asked about potential volunteers looking to join the affiliate.

“I’ve met so many wonderful people through SOWB. We live in a community that is known for its big-hearted people and I’ve had a chance to see that first- hand through this organization. Also, connecting with our amazing athletes is an opportunity I’m grateful for. They are the best! Hearing their eagerness to get back to sports and feeling their enthusiasm and excitement to take part in events is simply the best! I’m so proud to part of this group.”

Like our Wood Buffalo volunteers, we miss you athletes, and for athletes looking to play the sports they love in the Fort McMurray area, just know that you are in good hands with this invested group of volunteers.

April 18-24 marks National Volunteer Week, and this year we want to emphasize how important our volunteers are to us by spotlighting them throughout the month. Profiles will be released Tuesdays and Thursdays to recognize people who continue to make an impact in the lives of our athletes.

Visit https://www1.specialolympics.ab.ca/abvolunteer-week/ to see everything we have planned for the month including events, profiles, videos, and a message board where you can share a message with a volunteer who has made an impact in your life.

If you’re interested in volunteering, click here to begin your journey with Special Olympics Alberta!