In the words of Special Olympics BC – Surrey athlete Kristina Ettema, the 2014 Sports Celebrities Festival presented by Silver Wheaton was “the awesomest night ever.”
Ettema, an international champion in alpine skiing and national medallist in swimming and curling, served as the event’s keynote speaker alongside Vancouver Canucks forward Chris Higgins, whose sister is a longtime Special Olympics athlete. She was thrilled to have the opportunity to share her perspective on Special Olympics and spend time with the gala supporters and celebrities.
“When people see people with disabilities competing at Special Olympics Games, they understand more. They understand we can do the things other people can do too,” Ettema said in her inspiring speech. “We’re all equal. Everyone does what they can, and everyone has their own individual talents.”
After Ettema spoke, one of the event guests took the time to tell her that her words “made a big difference.”
Over the last 16 years, the Sports Celebrities Festival presented by Silver Wheaton has had a significant impact on its charitable causes. The event has raised more than $3.2 million to support the life-changing work of the Canucks for Kids Fund and Special Olympics BC. The funds help empower athletes with intellectual disabilities to gain confidence, acceptance, and pride through sport, and also provide vital opportunities, resources and much-needed care to children and families throughout B.C.
In addition to the important financial support, this event creates many inspiring and empowering moments like those created and experienced by Ettema. Bringing together B.C.’s leading sports celebrities, significant sponsors, and more than 600 generous attendees, the Sports Celebrities Festival forms a powerful demonstration of respect and inclusion for Special Olympics athletes with intellectual disabilities, and of the power of sport to make a difference as the Canucks for Kids Fund does day in and day out. When these important people come together in support of these two causes, it makes a stirring statement.
This year’s gala saw the entire Vancouver Canucks roster come out in style along with alumni, coaches, and management; members of the BC Lions gave their time to the event with the playoffs fast approaching; Vancouver Whitecaps FC icons represented their club after its record-breaking season; Olympic ski cross champion Ashleigh DeMerit and fitness expert and BC Lions alumnus Tommy Europe brought added star power. And the roster of SOBC athletes who took part in the SCF also included several members of Special Olympics Team Canada who are gearing up for the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles.
Amid all the star power, Ettema stood out with her heartfelt words.
“Special Olympics makes me so happy. You get huge confidence with Special Olympics, and I feel like I am part of a team, part of a family. I’m so grateful for all the things I’ve been able to do and all the people I’ve met,” she said. “Thank you all so much for coming tonight and helping make all of this possible.”
Higgins too knows the impact of Special Olympics, having seen his sister Jeanne grow so much as an athlete and a person through her years as a Special Olympics athlete in New York, their hometown.
“It’s inspiring, personally from watching my sister, I know about their competitiveness and passion for their sports, it’s something that itrarely matched in pro hockey,” said Higgins. “I take inspiration from these athletes, it means everything to me.”
Watch the Canucks TV segment on the power of the Sports Celebrities Festival:
The event also featured CTV Vancouver’s Tamara Taggart and Canucks play-caller John Shorthouse as MCs, Brent Butt entertaining with his standup set, and Cody Karey impressing with his vocal talents. Throughout the night, guests also bid on auctions and enjoyed games and activities while mingling with the celebrities, and CTV and TSN Radio conducted live broadcasting from the event.
We thank all of the Sports Celebrities Festival sponsors, attendees, and supporters who give so generously each year. Our heartfelt gratitude goes to the SCF sponsors:
- Presenting Sponsor Silver Wheaton;
- Major Sponsors Canaccord Genuity and Macquarie Group Foundation;
- Event Partners Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, Home Hardware, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Lululemon, Nintendo, Palladio Jewellers, Silver Wheaton, and TD; and
- Media Partners CTV Vancouver and TSN Radio.
And special thanks to the Vancouver Canucks!