Building skills and sharing perspectives in Athlete Leadership programs

SOBC Athlete Leadership Conference

Leadership skills, public-speaking abilities, health advocacy, and dialogue were enhanced as 39 talented athletes from 15 communities participated in Special Olympics BC Athlete Leadership programs in Richmond in the first weekend of April.

Twenty-five athletes built their public-speaking skills in the Athlete Speakers Bureau 1 and 2 courses, supported by mentors from their home communities who will help them in their ongoing opportunities to give speeches and share their stories. These advocates help raise awareness and support for Special Olympics and for individuals with intellectual disabilities, showcasing their great abilities and achievements.

"Because of Special Olympics, I am more fit and healthy than before. I feel included in my community because without Special Olympics, I would have few friends, few opportunities, and few chances to travel and meet new people," SOBC – Vernon athlete Justin Sigal said in his Athlete Speakers Bureau 1 speech. "I worry that without Special Olympics, three million people [with intellectual disabilities] would be living in their homes gathering dust. Life can be so much more. I love how I am included in the province of British Columbia, and my life is so much richer for it."

Watch a few moments from the great speeches in Athlete Speakers Bureau 1:














A further 14 athletes participated in the Governance course, where they discussed key issues affecting athletes and programs and brought valuable ideas into play. They provided great insights and worked on their abilities to foster dialogue, which will help them as they work with their home communities to share important athlete perspectives.

The Athlete Speakers Bureau 2 and Governance participants also completed training to become certified Sun Safety Health Heroes. As part of our new Healthy Communities initiatives, SOBC is introducing Health Heroes training for athletes who wish to equip themselves to help educate their peers about best practices for healthy living. This will create a wider network of health advocates helping address the ongoing health issues faced by individuals with intellectual disabilities.

The April course focused on sun safety, so these 27 athletes discussed best practices for being outdoors and received tools to share in their communities, helping fellow athletes stay healthy and safe in the sun throughout their spring sports and their active lives outdoors. The participants demonstrated great ideas for how to implement their training at home and enthusiasm to help others.

Congratulations and thanks to all the participants! We look forward to hearing more from these athlete leaders and we understand they are already doing great work back in their home communities!





Athlete Speaker's Bureau 1

Frances Collison


Paula Harper


Sherri Lines

Comox Valley

Arlene Petersen


Jessica Lehtonen


Janet Lehtonen


Ashleigh Cummings


Carol  Blackmore


Justin Sigal


Alison Dennis


Mathew Schmiing


Natasha Pang


Josh French


Kim Andrews


Justin King


Penny Dobson


Tracy Martin


Ashmita King


Shayne Blandin


Barb McLeod


Emily Beauchamp


Yvonne Newport


Ariel Taylor


Sam Taylor



Kyle Eriksen



Athlete Speaker's Bureau 2

Paige Norton


Tom Norton


Stacey Madden


Janny Jung


Sheryl Spurr


Jessica Chapelski


Gordon Balderstone


Jen Fyfe


Marinka Van Hage

Prince George

Wilma Van Hage


James Clifford


Ron Clifford


Derek Santema


Ed Santema


Roxy Podrasky


Barb Jarrett


Lindsey Aarstad


Veronica Aarstad


Vincent Li


Sameer Janmohamed


David Johnston

Dawson Creek

Tracey Heartt


Christel Jensen

Sunshine Coast

Cathy Verge


Lauren Hogan


Berna Ho






Jake Hooper

Comox Valley



Adam Advocaat




Ken McLean




Billy Peterson

North Shore



Bryce Schaufelberger




Suzy Whipple




Geoffrey Trimble




Kerri Lipsack




Priscilla Dickson




Brian Edwards




Jay (Jeremiah) Brooke




Salaudin Manji




Mike Palitti




Nic Strongitharm



To learn more about SOBC Athlete Leadership programs and opportunities, please contact Jill Harris by email or by phone at 250-919-0757.

About Athlete Leadership

Part of SOBC’s job is to encourage athletes to take part in leadership training programs so they can have a voice within their own communities and become representatives of Special Olympics in B.C., Canada and all over the world.

Through SOBC Athlete Leadership programs, athletes develop the skills and abilities to take leadership positions in a number of roles including public speaking, sitting on Local Committees, and assisting as fundraising and program volunteers. These programs are proven to have a lasting benefit to participants by increasing confidence and self-esteem as well as providing input and insight into athlete issues – a valuable resource to Special Olympics BC.

Learn more