SOBC youth programs develop confidence and connections

Youth participant raising hands and smiling

“There is truly nothing more rewarding than bearing witness to children overcoming challenges they didn’t think they could,” says Special Olympics BC – Prince George youth program leader Aalia Suran.

Suran – along with fellow youth program leader Kasey Walker – are university students who dedicate their valuable time and efforts to lead youth programs for SOBC – Prince George. For almost two years, they have been offering a fun and inclusive environment for children with intellectual disabilities!

At Special Olympics BC Active Start and FUNdamentals youth programs, participants ages two to 11 learn motor, sport, and social skills. SOBC is currently offering youth programs in 17 communities across the province during the 2023-24 sport season!

For Walker, she enjoys taking part in the growth and development of the athletes.

“Personally, I love watching the children grow both physically and socially during our time with them,” she says. “The amount of progress that our children make over the six-to-seven-week program is amazing. Hearing about their positive experiences at SOBC makes the position extremely rewarding.”

SOBC youth programs especially play a vital part in Prince George, as it creates strong connections within the community and northern B.C. as a whole.

“Programs for youth with intellectual and neurodevelopmental disorders are hard to come by in northern and rural communities, so it’s very special to be a part of SOBC and provide these opportunities for families in Prince George!” says Suran.

“We are extremely grateful for the tight knit community of SOBC and Prince George,” Walker adds. “We are hoping to continue with the program over the summer and gain new participants!”

We are eternally grateful for Suran, Walker, and all the other youth program leaders throughout the province who make an empowering difference for children with intellectual disabilities!

Warming the hearts of families

Many families of youth with intellectual disabilities feel the outstretched impact of SOBC youth programs.

Grace Tamkee is the mother of young athlete Marcus, who has been involved in SOBC – Richmond’s youth programs for many years. Over time, she has seen Marcus develop a strong connection with SOBC youth program leader Phoebe Lau.

Phoebe smiling with two youth participants behind her and following her
SOBC – Richmond program leader Phoebe Lau coaches her youth with great passion and joy!

“He has had Coach Phoebe since he was two,” Tamkee says. “I think he’s always felt a sense of belonging here because he’s had that attachment to Coach Phoebe, and has grown up with her.”

Fellow SOBC – Richmond parent Anne Cuthbert reflects on how SOBC youth programs have been integrated in their daily lives and what it has meant for her son, Matthew.

“It’s given us a great outlet for Saturday mornings – something to go and something to do. Matthew is completely accepted. He meets friends and looks forward to going,” she says. “It gives him something to look forward to. He loves a schedule, so every Friday night he’s like, ‘gym at nine!’” 

Parent Yuan Jiang echoes the power of inclusion and confidence through SOBC youth programs, as it provides an opportunity for her son, Aaron, to build connections and friendships.

“It is hard for Aaron to try regular classes, because it is hard for him to follow the instructions,” Jiang says. “He doesn’t feel successful with neurotypical kids. But with Special Olympics, he is able to do lots of things with other athletes and with the same coach every week. So his self-esteem is getting higher and higher.”

A heartfelt thanks to the Government of British Columbia, Government of Canada, and Tim Hortons for their dedicated support of our empowering youth programs throughout B.C.!

Special Olympics BC youth programs play a vital role in the lives of children with intellectual disabilities. You can take part in this life-changing opportunity by getting involved and registering with SOBC today!

“We welcome you, we so appreciate it! It’s fun classes, it’s a great way to contribute and get to know people in the community,” says Cuthbert.

Join our joyful community

Learn more about SOBC youth programs