Athletes, coaches, and volunteers frequently use the word “family” when describing Special Olympics and for Nikki Gossmann the words are indistinguishable.
Nikki’s tenure with Special Olympics started 10-years-ago in St. Paul as a bowling coach before moving back to Edmonton in 2013.
She is a correctional peace officer at the Edmonton Remand Centre and after attending a Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) event that same year she was hooked.
“I just really enjoy it and I love the events,” said Nikki. “Obviously I am kind of biased because my sister is an athlete, but I love what Special Olympics gives to our community and athletes.”
Amanda Gossmann, Nikki’s sister, is a Special Olympics athlete in St. Albert who plays a variety of sports including floor hockey, basketball, and softball, among others.
Nikki coaches basketball and softball in St. Albert, as well as the current co-chair; her mother is the former chair; and her stepfather is also a coach.
She has had many great experiences as a coach, but one that stands out to her was the gold medal game in Medicine Hat last year.
“Our team lost by one basket. It was like 30 seconds, we were down by one, and it was the most intense coaching moment I have ever had,” said Nikki. “Watching them work so hard for that 30 seconds. Even losing by one basket was a huge accomplishment for them and we felt good about how hard we tried.”
While Nikki has been her sister’s coach in the past, she tries not to be, as she wants Amanda to have her own experiences within Special Olympics.
However, they did join together to fundraise for the Polar Plunge, where they later made the plunge into the freezing cold water.
Nikki volunteers with the LETR as the Alberta Corrections Liaison and has been involved ever since her first Free our Finest, which she advocated is her favourite event each year.
The impact that LETR has on raising funds and awareness for athletes with intellectual disabilities is invaluable, as a both a coach and LETR officer, Nikki has experienced the mutualism between them.
“Those funds help my programs and it is super important because we couldn’t run without LETR,” said Nikki.
Her role as an LETR officer is one that she values highly and she plans to continue volunteering for many years.
“It has impacted my life so much and I think it is important to give back,” said Nikki.
Her next goal for LETR is to host a Cops, Pops, & event in St. Albert for the first time.
Special Olympics is celebrating 50 years of empowerment through sport and a new five year plan to create global inclusion, something which Nikki believes that LETR will be a catalyst in achieving this goal.
“I think just by doing what were doing [as] we do a lot of inclusion,” said Nikki. “We get a team together and go play the basketball team or whatever. For us, all of our events we include athletes, so we will continue to include them.”
The future is inclusion and LETR officers are again carrying the torch as leaders of this notion. Nikki hopes that more and more officers will sign up for events because it not only does it raise funds and awareness, but it is also fun.
“I would just say do it because it is probably the best thing I have ever decided to do,” said Nikki. “I have more fun volunteering and working with Special Olympics than I have doing anything else.”
Volunteering with Special Olympics is a family experience for Nikki and she advocates that her family has integrated into something bigger – the Special Olympics family.
“It is such a great community and like I said it makes me feel good to know that if anything ever happened to any one of us my sister would have the support of the Special Olympics family,” said Nikki. “She would have a second family to look out and care for her. That’s really what it is, especially for us at SOA-St. Albert. It is our second family.”