CORNWALL, Ontario – About 20 athletes happily tried their hand at soccer strategies at the Benson Centre on Wednesday, July 24, all a part of the Ontario Special Olympic’s summer program.
For mother and main volunteer Karen Labelle, this program is very important to her and her son. Her son Matthew McIntosh, who lives with Autism, routinely enjoys himself during Wednesday evenings now.
“They may not have a lot of friendships and now they are all looking forward to coming out here and seeing their new friends…I’ve spoken to many of the other parents and they say the same thing,” said Labelle.
Jason Hussak, Special Olympics Ontario Community and Marketing Developer, said that Cornwall has not hosted community programs supported by their organization in a number of years, apart from active high school programs. He is hoping that strong school support networks will translate into program partnerships for evening and weekend events.
“For eight weeks this summer we are doing Special Olympic programs, so sport programs for people with intellectual disabilities,” explained Hussak. “We are kind of doing it as a way to show people the support they may want to bring to the Cornwall area and give people the opportunity to try a few different things, learn about organization.”
With four weeks left in the summer initiative, community members are encouraged to participate and volunteer. Each Wednesday night around 7 p.m., attendees will gear up to play different soccer and bocce games.
“We are looking for volunteers to recruit partners together,” said Hussak.
Labelle said that the program is great to teach attendees different social skills and different methods of learning.
“Cornwall doesn’t have a lot in terms of meeting the needs of people with special needs…a lot of times they don’t have a place to go…there seems to be a lack of (services) for those aged 15 to 21. This fills the gap and includes the ones who are already receiving other services,” said Labelle.
Ontario Special Olympics has conducted research with their athletes, claiming they experience the following health and lifestyle benefits:
- Improved lifespan and overall health for Special Olympics athletes
- 10 per cent fewer athletes who are obese or overweight
- 20 per cent fewer athletes with anxiety disorders due to access to sport
- six per cent higher employment rate for Special Olympics athletes
To learn more about the program and how to get involved, visit Special Olympics Ottawa on Facebook or contact Hussak at (416) 447-8326 ext. 279 or JasonH@specialolympicsontario.com.