Angela Klein is a longtime Special Olympics BC – Penticton athlete with many athletic accomplishments to her credit, including two Special Olympics Canada Summer Games appearances in two different sports. She is also known for her perseverance, positive attitude, and many personal successes.
When did you first start with Special Olympics and how did you get involved?
I was 18 years old when Bob Braaten (then SOBC Region 2 Coordinator) had asked me if I ever considered getting involved in Special Olympics.
I was once one of the shyest people around (although you wouldn't know it if you met me nowadays LOL). I could barely look anyone in the eye and say hello, I always had my hair in my face. So I talked it over with my forever family, my caregivers and my biggest fans and supporters, Penny and Richard Poitras, and they happily encouraged me to give it a try. Reluctantly I said I would try it for one year and if I didn't like it, I wasn't coming back. Twenty-one years later I am still here! LOL
What Special Olympics sports do you participate in?
I used to compete in 5-pin bowling, 10-pin bowling, softball, powerlifting, swimming, and floor hockey, but that has all changed now because of my health problems, so now I very happily compete in swimming and was so excited to start racing again this season.
What do you like most about the sport/or sports you participate in?
Swimming is my all-time fave sport. When I got diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I begged my doctor to not let me give up swimming, I would be willing to give up all my other sports but I wanted to stay in swimming. She told me swimming was the best and safest form of exercise for people living with arthritis.
I love cheering on my teammates when we are competing and celebrating their achievements and accomplishments and encouraging them to keep going, even if they want to give up.
What does Special Olympics mean to you?
Special Olympics is like extended family to me. We laugh and giggle lots together, and cheer each other on. I love how diverse it is and how everyone accepts each other just as they are. I love meeting new people from different cultures and backgrounds.
What is your favourite Special Olympics experience?
I've had many experiences over the years but the one I'll always remember is winning my very first provincial gold medal. It was in 2005, at the Special Olympics BC Summer Games, and we were told our softball team, the Penticton Pirates, had won the official gold-medal round. I was stunned at first, then I started bawling, I couldn't believe we had won our last game to advance us to the Special Olympics Canada Summer Games that were held in Brandon, Manitoba, in 2006.
Another incredible experience that I remember is reading online and finding out I got picked to represent our province at the 2014 National Summer Games. I was so excited, I tripped running upstairs to tell my caregivers. They were extremely excited for me. They sent me messages everyday from home, encouraging me to keep going and doing my best at the games. I won the gold medal in my last race, which was 50 metre breaststroke.
That week, our coach, Collin Berdusco (may he RISP) told all of us if we got more then 15 personal-best times during one of the days we had races, he would have his head shaved. I don't know how many personal bests there were that day, but I got to shave his head, and that was so much fun, memories for life for sure.
What would you say to encourage others to get involved with Special Olympics?
You'd be surprised how much you learn, about others, but mostly about yourself, and how much fun it is, you'll learn things you never knew before, like how far you can go, not just in Special Olympics but in life itself. It was thanks to Special Olympics and the support of my family, for me to blossom and come out of my shell.
Please tell us more about yourself! What would you like people to know about you?
Thanks to the support of my family and friends and coaches in Special Olympics, I was able to become confident enough to find a full-time job working in a Seniors Assisted Living Facility. I worked full-time for about 14 years but have recently gone down to part time. People with my type of learning abilities (I have FASD, I am always open to questions anyone has about what FASD means and how I cope with it everyday) often have a very hard time finding and keeping jobs as long as I have had mine.
What would you like to share about your Indigenous heritage and experiences?
Growing up, I thought I was just Kwakiutl (on my birth mother’s side). I never knew anything about my biological father’s side, until about 12 years ago. Since then, I have discovered numerous things, such as discovering I have strong ties to Canadian history. I discovered I am a descendant of Gabriel Dumont, who fought alongside Louis Riel. And nowadays, thanks to social media sites, I am still discovering who I am related to and was even surprised to meet other athletes I am distantly related to as well. I love learning about other people's cultures and backgrounds as well.
In Indigenous History Month, and always, we honour the achievements and strength of Indigenous Peoples and the members of the Special Olympics BC community with Indigenous heritage.
If you have a story you'd like to celebrate, please contact SOBC Communications Manager Megan Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-737-3077.