Sometimes all it takes is one event, one moment, to understand the impact you can have by helping others and for Constable Braylon Hyggen, that “a-ha” moment occurred on Feb. 28, 2012.
With Blaine in search of new volunteers, Braylon decided that an opportunity to both engage the community and to run was something that seemed like a perfect fit, so he started volunteering at LETR events.
And in 2012 Braylon experienced the moment.
“I continued to help out at events and eventually had my “a-ha” moment when running the Final Leg into the 2012 [Special Olympics] Canada Winter Games in St. Albert,” said Braylon. “The sheer excitement and enjoyment on the faces of so many athletes cannot be described in words - I was hooked.”
After the National Games in St. Albert, Braylon became more proactive in helping to organize events, even ones that had not been done before in Lethbridge.
He became the Southwest Chair in 2015 and assumed the role until 2017. Braylon jumped right into LETR events including his annual favourite – the Polar Plunge – which he has done for the last five years, earning accolades like top individual fundraiser and best group costume.
Not only did Braylon jump into volunteering with LETR, but he also helped start the basketball program in Lethbridge five years ago.
“Seeing the improvement of the team over the past five years is awesome,” said Braylon. “We had 12 regular athletes at the start and now we have around 30 sign up and up to 24 athletes coming regularly.”
As a coach Braylon has been strongly involved with the growth of the basketball program and in 2017 the team attended their first Provincial Games where they walked away with the gold medal in Pool D after a great game with Edmonton-2.
For Braylon, the event was special in many ways as he got to see his team play their best and he carried the torch alongside his police service dog, Myke.
He was selected as one of the torch runners for the 2018 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. As a Guardian of the Flame, the atmosphere of Opening Ceremonies has always inspired him and he was thrilled to see the joy from each athlete, especially athletes he has coached.
Having volunteered as both a coach and LETR officer has given Braylon an inside perspective on why raising funds and awareness for the athletes is so important.
“The biggest thing is before I got involved with the basketball team you are supporting an organization that is great, but having been involved with the basketball team and budgeting logistics from travel to events, you truly start to see where these funds are going and you get an idea of why we are doing it,” said Braylon. “Without these funds a lot of these athletes wouldn’t be able to do it, so it makes the LETR a little more of a drive for me I guess.”
Braylon is excited for the future of LETR and his two biggest goals are getting more people from LPS involved, especially as officers retire and to get other law enforcement agencies involved with events.
The latter is something Braylon has already been working diligently on, as other agencies are now organizing events as well.
“We want to keep spreading the word about SO and getting people to help out in terms of organizing the events,” said Braylon. “I want people to catch that bug and have that moment.
For the past 50 years, Special Olympics across the country has been enriching the lives of Canadians with intellectual disabilities through the transformative power of sport, but we can’t do it alone – nor can the 800,000 Canadians with an intellectual disability.
In honour of our 50th year, we’re asking you to help ensure Special Olympics can continue transforming lives for another 50 years: refer a friend or family member to a Special Olympics program, help raise awareness of our mission and shift the focus from disability to ability, or make a donation today.