Special Olympics Brings out the True Joy of Sport
From one corner of the province to another, Special Olympics helps people with intellectual disabilities to develop both athletic skills and life skills through sport. Over 1,300 athletes and 600 volunteers hail from communities across Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan Chapter has been operating for over 40 years, and in 2018 it will also mark the 50th Anniversary of the parent Special Olympics as an International Organization.
Through the power of sport, people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths and abilities, skills and successes. Faye Matt, CEO, Special Olympics Saskatchewan noted, “Our athletes find the benefits of sport very rewarding because they are able to experience the true joy of sport with no controversy or selection problems.” She continued, “The health benefits of sport as well as the constant self-esteem, exercise, mental and physical fitness, combined with motivation allow the athletes to challenge themselves through sport and achieve and gain confidence in life, off the field.”
Special Olympics offers programming at low or no cost to athletes and volunteers. “The funding of Saskatchewan Lotteries ensures that the grassroots programs and year round training as well as recreational sports are provided throughout the province,” states Matt. “Without the volunteers supporting the athletes, we wouldn’t be able to run the programs we offer in all the communities for as long as we have been.” The Saskatchewan Lotteries funding also helps the competitive stream athletes to participate in Provincial, National and World Games annually.
“Saskatchewan is in an amazing growth period for Special Olympics as we are seeing more athletes and more volunteers,” exclaimed Matt. One of the grassroots programs seeing major growth is the Unified Sport program. Matt explains, “The Unified program combines Special Olympic athletes with typical students and places them on the same team. Teams compete against each other to build peer relationships and inclusive competition.” She continues, “There are currently five high schools in the province that have adopted the program.” Teams have an opportunity to compete nationally in 3 on 3 Basketball with players consisting of four Special Olympics Athletes and two Partner Athletes (no intellectual disability). Matt concludes, “This program drives our membership numbers and opens sport up to more people.”
For more information on Special Olympics Saskatchewan, and how you can get involved as a volunteer, please visit specialolympics.ca/saskatchewan or facebook.com/SOSaskatchewan.
Sport is more than a game. Visit www.sasksport.sk.ca for information on amateur sport in Saskatchewan and the many benefits of participating in sport.