Special Olympics coach champions inclusion with a 100-km birthday marathon fundraiser

In honour of Global Week of Inclusion, Special Olympics is celebrating  Champions of Inclusion: individuals leading the charge for respecting and embracing all abilities.

She lost all of her toenails and had to run 20 kilometres in socks last year, but Kalyn Head plans to do it all again in two days, running an ultra marathon to benefit Special Olympics BC.

Kalyn has spent her last three birthdays pushing her limits and raising funds for community organizations. Last year she did 100 kilometres and generated $6,000 for at-risk youth accessing programs through Chilliwack Community Services.

Kalyn got involved with her local Special Olympics programs 6 years ago. During that time, she has coached athletes in basketball, hockey, soccer, baseball, track and field, and swimming in Chilliwack and Abbotsford. During the pandemic, she even started a virtual program called Fit Family and Friends.

Since becoming a volunteer coach, Kalyn says she has witnessed the tremendous power of inclusion first-hand.

That’s why she’s chosen to dedicate this year’s run – and the funds raised – to support Special Olympics British Columbia.

“Special Olympics athletes have taught me so much about following your dreams and working hard to reach your goals. They are some of the most thoughtful, encouraging and optimistic individuals I have ever met, which is why I want to help them! I have seen first-hand the opportunities that Special Olympics gives to individuals with intellectual disabilities to be included in sport and the community.”

Last year’s birthday fundraiser was the first time Kalyn had ever run 100 kilometres – and it proved to be a greater challenge than she expected.

She lost all of her toenails and completed the last 20 kilometres in her socks.

“Last year wasn’t easy, but my athletes have taught me so much about persevering through challenges and I’m excited to do it again. This year I am training harder and smarter and hopefully I’ll be able to finish stronger than last year. I’ve been repeating the Special Olympics athlete oath – ‘Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt’ over and over again. Although there isn’t anything to win, I would love to raise $10,000 this year!”

In addition to raising funds, Kalyn hopes that the run will shine a light on her athletes and inspire more members of her community to embrace inclusion.

“I love being able to show that having an intellectual disability shouldn’t hold anyone back from following their dreams and being included,” she said. “I think exposing the community to these incredible individuals gives everyone a better understanding of disabilities and how we can make the community more inclusive and equitable to everyone.”

Kalyn will start this year’s run at midnight on July 23, completing a 50 kilometre loop around Chilliwack before heading on to Abbotsford.

She plans to complete her run around noon, surrounded by her Special Olympics athletes, friends and family.