When Abbotsford’s Roshan Gosal encourages his peers to volunteer with Special Olympics BC, he convinces them with a story from his six years of experience as a coach in his region.
The 20-year-old’s favourite moment to share is from a soccer tournament, when his team was competing for third place.
“We had a shot on goal and the goalie on the other team made a fantastic save, but fell down,” Gosal recalled. “The rebound came out to one of our athletes, but instead of shooting the ball when the goalie was on the ground, he went over and helped him up.”
The opponents thanked each other, his player went back to the ball, made his shot - and the goalie made another incredible save. Gosal’s team lost the match.
“It was almost funny to watch,” Gosal said with a smile. “Making the shot didn’t even cross his mind - he was just genuinely concerned that he had fallen.”
Inspiring stories like this are commonplace when volunteering with Special Olympics – and once you experience it, “you’re hooked.”
Gosal started volunteering when he was in grade 10, hoping to fulfill his volunteer hours.
Six years later, not only is he still a soccer and swim coach, but he also volunteers as a Community Outreach Coordinator, Youth with Special Olympics BC – Abbotsford, which is where he works to recruit other youth into the movement. He also launched a Special Olympics Club at University of the Fraser Valley, where he’s studying chemistry and biology, as well as spearheads Spread the Word to End the Word – an international campaign to stop the use of the R-word – across Abbotsford.
Gosal championed this campaign because he unfortunately witnessed the harmful effects of the R-word firsthand. After a practice, a passerby used the word and it immediately stifled the laughter and smiles among the team.
“They kind of looked at me and asked why somebody would say that to them – and I did not have an answer at that point,” he said. “I saw the effect and I knew how much it hurt some of the athletes and I wasn’t going to let that happen again.”
He started the campaign in his community with four high schools, collecting 1,500 pledges from students vowing not to use the R-word. Four years later, all 10 Abbotsford high schools are involved, as well as University of the Fraser Valley, collecting too many signatures to count. Gosal, along with Austin Johnston, a soccer player from his Abbotsford team, will work to expand the campaign even more at the Special Olympics Global Youth Leadership Summit in Abu Dhabi next month. The pair, along with an adult mentor, were invited to join the Summit with other youth leaders from around the world to work on projects that promote inclusion.
According to Lois McNary, Special Olympics BC’s VP Sport, Gosal’s ongoing impact has led him to a seat on their Leadership Council, where he contributes to discussions on the organization’s strategic plan, among other things.
“He really stepped up and took a huge leadership role, even before he got to university,” McNary said. “He loves what he does with the athletes, he loves being involved, he believes in the cause.”
“We can’t say enough about him – we’re so excited to be working with him.”
For Gosal, Special Olympics became part of his life after just one practice.
Having grown up with an uncle with Down syndrome, he knew it was “a perfect fit” – so much so, that he recruited his uncle to the team.
“I had never seen him in that type of environment – it’s just amazing to watch, because he’s made friends with all of these athletes and he’s laughing and smiling the entire practice,” said Gosal.
And, of course, he gets just as much out of it as a volunteer.
“The environment itself is so genuine and everybody is there because they want to make an impact,” he said. “That’s why I would rather immerse myself in everything I can in the organization and be as influential as possible, because it’s just something I really enjoy.”