When the pandemic put a pause on in-person programming, Special Olympics Alberta was quick to pivot to virtual support with the help of many dedicated volunteers. Together, they created the Provincial Exercise and Activity Knockout Program – known as PEAK – to help athletes stay engaged, connected, active and healthy.
The program has now run two eight-week seasons challenging athletes to hit their selected fitness goals and attend virtual sessions to enhance their fitness, mind and health through a variety of activities.
They then expanded this support by introducing the PEAK Paper Program, to reach athletes without online access. The offline program has opened the doors to more athletes across the province – a level of support that would not be possible without committed volunteers like Carol Wideman, who ensures materials are mailed to each participant.
“Athletes can expect a variety of activities, easy to more difficult workouts, education on nutrition and exercise, weekly BINGO sheets, hydration and fitness trackers, coloring sheets and more,” said Carol.
With over 576 athletes participating so far, the PEAK Program has been a massive success, with athletes logging a combined 186,639 minutes of exercise.
“PEAK is a really helpful and awesome program especially in this time of pandemic,” says athlete Kevin Petryshyn. “PEAK Program is great for me to stay active and motivated. Their online activities are easy to follow.”
The PEAK Program is supported by a group of 37 volunteers who have taken on various roles, from facilitating sessions to moderating Facebook groups and live events.
“We are so grateful to all of the volunteers who have made PEAK such an awesome experience for our athletes,” says Jill Moore, Director of Sport Development at Special Olympics Alberta. “This program could not run without you all and we cannot wait to Reach our PEAK again in May.”
Coach Marie Powell was the visionary behind Workout Wednesday sessions, organizing weekly workout routines that would emphasize progression.
“Offering an 8-week program to develop strength, then a second session to develop endurance, provided athletes with a way to work on these together in a ‘class’ type setting with the benefit of social connection and a sense of belonging to a training program,” shares Marie.
Marie has taken the lead in preparing the framework for the workout plans and has facilitated three sessions herself.
“I found that being part of the PEAK Program enabled me to continue to move forward with our Special Olympics organization during a year when moving forward made such a huge difference in feeling a sense of normalcy,” says Marie. “Even though there has been a screen between all of us, every time we connected, it felt like a team was getting together for a practice or training session.”
From sharing daily motivational messages with athletes on social media, like volunteers Marie Evans and Marilyn Ritchie, to packaging and organizing the mailing out of PEAK prizes by volunteers like athlete Josh Petrone and his mother, Karen, there has been no shortage of enthusiastic support.
Janet Airey, one of Special Olympics Alberta’s newest volunteers, first got involved through the PEAK Program and has been moderating multiple live sessions every week.
“I've loved seeing the amazing dedication and participation from the athletes,” said Janet. “They have all made improvements throughout the program, which is awesome. Also, I love the support and community that the athletes provided for each other.”
Thank you to all of the volunteers, coaches and facilitators that have contributed to the PEAK Program in Alberta and innovative virtual programming like it across the country.
For more information about the Special Olympics Alberta PEAK Program, please visit: https://www1.specialolympics.ab.ca/peak-program/
Visit https://www1.specialolympics.ab.ca/abvolunteer-week/ to see everything Special Olympics Alberta has planned for National Volunteer Week, including events, volunteer profiles, videos and a message board where you can share your thanks with a volunteer who has made an impact in your life.
Please join us in celebrating the more than 17,000 volunteers across the country who are the backbone of our Special Olympics movement. Everyday, they #ChooseToInclude and transform lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities through the power of sport and community, creating a more inclusive Canada for all.
Volunteers - your time can be quantified, but your impact can’t. Here’s to you.
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