Nicky Speichts misses the Special Olympics.
“It is fun beating people and winning races,” says the 23-year-old. “It’s nice meeting people too and getting out of the house.”
He competes in bowling and curling and used to run the 100-metre in high school track and is an avoid golfer.
Speichts used to volunteer himself as the manager of the high school boys basketball team but hasn’t been to the Special Olympics the last three years due to a lack of volunteers.
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Carrie Johnson is a supervisor at the Conway Workshop, a sheltered worksite for people with mental or physical disabilities. She says the games are an important social opportunity for the athletes.
“It’s gratifying to see people with disabilities getting out in the community, being involved in sports and actually accomplishing something. These events are run just like the Olympics but for people with developmental delays.”
They athletes also develop long-term friendships with the athletes from other areas and a sense of camaraderie amongst their teammates.
“They do things they didn’t think they could do and have fun,” says Johnson. “They have a ball.”
Not to mention the athletes also develop physical fitness and motor skills, greater self-confidence and a more positive self-image.
Johnson says the catch is finding volunteers.
“We are desperately looking for volunteers to help us out,” she says. “We just can’t find enough people who are willing to make the commitment.”
She did have enough coaches to take a small group to Clare this spring but not enough for a full-on Special Olympics.
She needs at least two bowling coaches to take a half-dozen athletes and she figures half of the 30 people at the workshop would be interested in competing.
The commitment includes coach’s training and then training and motivating the athltetes leading up to the competition on top of the actual competition itself.
About 1500 athletes compete in the Special Olympics in Nova Scotia. (Paralympics is different and offers sporting events for athletes with physical handicaps.)
Special Olympics has programming for athletes from age four to 88 as well as a special youth program for children up to 12, focussing on structured play and introduction to games, teams, competitions and socialization.
In Nova Scotia is possible to participate in aquatics, athletics, bocce, bowling, curling, cross county skiing, figure skating, floor hockey, golf, power lifting, soccer, snowshoeing, softball and speed skating.
The Conway Workshop: http://www.conwayworkshop.com/
Special Olympics Nova Scotia: http://www.sons.ca/index.html