Special Olympics BC has changed Jayne Burton’s life as a volunteer – and parent

For National Volunteer Week, April 19 to 25, we are thanking our 22,000 volunteers across Canada by sharing some of their stories. Their unwavering support helps Special Olympics athletes and their families build the confidence, determination and strength to take on any challenge in sport – and in life.

Jayne Burton poses with her son for a photo on a golf course
Jayne Burton with her son Christian.


Langley’s Jayne Burton has been volunteering for Special Olympics British Columbia for the past 10 years. She originally signed up to help her son Christian, a Special Olympics BC – Langley athlete, but has since stepped up to serve as co-local coordinator for her community. She goes above and beyond in organization and commitment to not only SOBC but other groups and organizations that she is a part of. 

As a parent of a Special Olympics athlete, her family is a big part of the SOBC family. She has said: “I became involved because my son, Christian, has an intellectual disability and autism. Special Olympics has affected every part of his life in a very positive way. Before Special Olympics he had no friends; he now has parties, goes to events, and is the official photographer on our Athlete Council. For the first time in his life, he feels that he is accepted and belongs. As a parent, this is priceless. My husband and daughter also volunteer, it has been life changing for all of us.”

1.    When and why did you get involved with Special Olympics? 

I have been volunteering for Special Olympics Langley for approximately 10 years. I initially began volunteering to help my son.

Christian is 25-years-old and is on the Autism Spectrum. He is very friendly outgoing and athletic.

For many years my husband and I were searching for a sport opportunity where he could participate on a team.

We had tried many of the programs for “typical children” but he just didn’t fit in. It was not that he didn’t have the athletic ability, he just wasn’t accepted by the others and he realized this very quickly.

After we left one T-ball game with him in tears, I thought there must be an organization that will accept him for who he is.

A friend, whose son also has ASD, suggested I check out Special Olympics, her son was excelling in the programs, had made many new friends and for the first time enjoyed sports.

Christian and I went to a registration event and immediately athletes came up to welcome him. Parents and volunteers welcomed me! The whole atmosphere was one of acceptance. We wanted to be part of this amazing organization.

2.    What is your favourite Special Olympics moment/memory? 

One of my favorite moments that I will always remember took place at a Leadership Conference for athletes. Each athlete was required to give a speech to complete the program.

A very nervous young man came to the podium and described what the true meaning of sportsmanship was to him. 

He recalled Special Olympics Kamloops Summer Games, where he competed in the relay event for athletics. He explained that he was doing very poorly in his events, feeling as though he was really letting his team down.

The final straw was that he dropped the baton during the relay, he was devastated, truly inconsolable.

Another athlete, from a competitive team was watching all this.

He came up to console the very upset young man, held out his hand and gave him a silver medal.

He said, ‘I want you to have mine because you deserve it.’ 

Our speaker believed that this was the purest act of sportsmanship he had ever seen and with great pride showed us the medal. The entire audience was extremely touched.

3.    Why should other people get involved with Special Olympics?

I truly believe that anyone with an intellectual disability will benefit greatly from being a member of Special Olympics. Not only is everyone honing their athletic skills, they are meeting new people all the time who accept them for exactly who they are. 

I have seen shy, reserved individuals come into the programs who have never played a sport and have no friends, transform into amazing athletes, role models and volunteers.

For the first time they are a part of something very positive and they truly can make a difference. 

My son Christian is one of those individuals. He is now an athlete spokesperson and has raised thousands of dollars for our programs.

4.    How has Special Olympics changed your life?
Special Olympics has changed my life in many ways. I now feel confident that my son has a network of individuals who really care about him, which is great comfort to me.

Seeing him happy and involved and giving back to others is a huge gift to me.

I have learned that everyone has a place in Special Olympics - it does not matter what your athletic abilities are. It is truly a community that looks after all its citizens.

Donating my time to our athletes brings me joy, I feel that I receive so much more in return.

5.    Why do you volunteer?

I volunteer as I truly enjoy seeing athletes, parents, caregivers and volunteers all coming together to support an organization that values every member of our community.