B.C. volunteers come out on top in Canada-wide awards

Angela Behn receiving the 2019 SOBC Howard Carter Award surrounded by athletes at the SOBC - Nanaimo athletics meet on June 15.
Angela Behn, 2019 SOBC Howard Carter Award winner and Special Olympics Canada Female Coach of the Year.

We’re delighted to congratulate four B.C. volunteers who are deserving winners of 2019 Special Olympics Canada awards! Nanaimo’s Angela Behn and Burnaby’s Peter De Marchi have won the Special Olympics Canada Female and Male Coach of the Year titles, and Mike McClenahan and Michael Blondé have earned the 2019 Frank Selke Jr. Fundraising Volunteer of the Year Award. 

All of B.C.’s national award winners have displayed outstanding dedication to Special Olympics and have helped countless athletes achieve their goals!

Please click here for Special Olympics Canada’s full announcement. 

As a multi-sport coach of alpine skiing, athletics, Club Fit, figure skating, and soccer, Behn has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to bring out the best in her athletes and always puts in the extra effort to master the knowledge required to be an outstanding coach. With over 30 years of experience in sport, education, and coaching, Behn has created strong teams of athletes and coaches alike for Special Olympics BC. She is this year’s Howard Carter Award winner in recognition of her efforts.

Being a lifelong learner, Behn is continuously updating her coaching skills, which has helped several of her athletes advance to and compete at the Special Olympics National and World Games. Behn has also tutored numerous athletes in public speaking and helped several of her indigenous athletes explore and celebrate their heritage. 

A parent of one of Behn’s athletes says Behn sees “the potential our children have well before they even know they have it, and ignites the passion for them to follow dreams that lead them off to amazing opportunities.” Behn’s teachings extend beyond the sporting world and change the lives of many. 

With De Marchi’s passion for sports and outgoing personality, he soon became an asset to SOBC – Burnaby’s athletics coaching squad, specializing in middle and long distance where he has helped numerous athletes achieve personal bests. In addition, De Marchi is also the Head Coach for SOBC – Burnaby’s basketball program and serves on the SOBC – Burnaby Local Committee as Program Coordinator. 

Since getting involved in 2010, De Marchi took on the head coaching role for local and regional athletics teams at the 2016 Special Olympics Regional Qualifiers and 2017 Special Olympics BC Summer Games. He earned a spot on the Team BC athletics coaching staff in 2018 for the Special Olympics Canada Summer Games, and finally on Team Canada for the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games. 

Peter De Marchi coaching at the World Games
Peter De Marchi (right) served as a guide runner as well as a Team Canada athletics coach at the 2019 World Games.

De Marchi’s commitment to Special Olympics at all levels of competition results in a compassionate coaching style founded on knowledge and experience, and it is clear to see that he cares deeply about his athletes. For the 2014 National Games, De Marchi would meet with his athlete running the 10,000-metre event to go on extra training runs together. The athlete said she “had never felt as supported as she did with Peter as [her] coach.” This type of effort speaks volumes to the calibre of coaching De Marchi provides. 

Blondé and McClenahan are the two longest-serving members of the motionball Marathon of Sport Vancouver volunteer organizing committee, and have been instrumental in growing this important fundraising event, which has raised over $963,000 for Special Olympics Canada Foundation. 

They have taken on many leadership roles, including co-Event Directors of the motionball Vancouver chapter, and continue to lead a team of dedicated volunteers to bring this event to life. They accomplish this through year-round planning, leading committee meetings, securing sponsorships, and most importantly, encouraging the people around them to join the cause. Blondé and McClenahan have acted as mentors not only to the emerging leaders on the Vancouver chapter, but to motionball’s Event Directors across the country.  

Michael Blonde and Mike McClenahan
Michael Blonde (far left) and Mike McClenahan (far right), Frank Selke Jr. Fundraising Volunteer of the Year award winners.

McClenahan was first involved with motionball as a participant in 2010. In 2012 he decided to move into the role of co-Event Director, and secured the title of top fundraising individual by raising $29,500 through his personal efforts. Never one to miss out on the fun, McClenahan not only organizes the event but consistently participates with a team of his colleagues from Benefits by Design, and has also encouraged his two children to get involved. 

Blondé’s first Marathon of Sport experience came as a participant in Toronto in 2010. After returning to his hometown of Kelowna, he was inspired to start the motionball Marathon of Sport Kelowna. This event remains a success and continues to grow every year. After moving to Vancouver, Blondé quickly joined the motionball Marathon of Sport Vancouver committee. In 2019, Blondé was the driving force behind securing his employer as the event’s title sponsor, bringing in significant additional funds and support. Blondé also secured the title of top fundraising individual with his personal efforts raising $17,600. 

While they deliver impressive individual contributions and efforts, Blondé and McClenahan are also consistently seen as one team. Pushing and supporting one another, they have proven to be a remarkable duo when it comes to fundraising and their leadership has inspired many others. 

All winners will accept their awards at the Special Olympics Canada National Awards Night on Thursday, November 14, in Toronto. Congratulations again to all of the deserving recipients! Way to make B.C. proud!