By Mathew Klassen
Special Olympics (also known as Special O) is a program that helps kids and adults with special needs. The program helps build confidence and encourages friendships in kids like us with special needs. It allows us to be active members of our school’s athletics program and to wear our uniforms proudly. We train and work hard like all other sports, and we even get the opportunity to compete. You don’t always have to be a competitor in Special O, though. It has other things you can do to be part of it. Special O has many leadership programs and many volunteers that make it possible. It also has a long history of meeting students’ needs in a valuable and exciting way.
My school, West Kildonan Collegiate, has one of these very special programs. We, the students at West K, are very lucky to have the opportunity to participate. Special O provides us with competitive and fun experiences. Very recently we competed in an indoor soccer event. We waited for the bus to take us to the University of Winnipeg to play in an indoor soccer tournament. Once we got there, we split up into two teams and put on our jerseys. Before lunch we played a few games. One was against Ecole Edward Schreyer School from Beausejour. After lunch we played two more games. We won most of them and tied one game. At the end of the day we all had fun and got gym bags for participating. The best part of it was playing soccer and having fun. We feel proud to have been a part of the event. We felt free and enjoyed ourselves. We all have restrictions in our lives and this is our freedom to be who we are and to take part in a very rewarding experience.
The Special Olympics program has been around for a long time. The Special Olympics movement began with Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and the first event was held in 1968. A former NHL player named Ted Irvine brought the idea to Manitoba in the 1970s. The history of Special Olympics shows its value and long standing support. It is so important to keep these programs running.
I believe that having a Special O program in our school increases the interaction with other students, especially for those people who have difficulty fitting in and communicating with others. It also helps people with special needs do something fun that they can take pride in. I take pride in myself and the school when I compete in Special O events. It also teaches us to be active. We learn new things and get to meet new people. This is very valuable because Special Olympics is about opening hearts and minds to who we are. It is also about helping us fit in and feel a sense of belonging with the people around us. It keeps us active and teaches us how important our health is. We also learn new skills to take with us after we leave the Special Olympics program. Did you know that Special O offers 18 sports to nearly 1700 athletes in Manitoba?
I am not sure what I would do without this program. It gives me something special to look forward to being a part of. We are all special in our own way and this program lets us shine for West K. Special O represents respect, acceptance, inclusion, and human dignity and makes us feel good. The skills we learn are not only about sports but social acceptance and tolerance. It gives us the strength and confidence to do our very best.
Special Olympics Alberta. (2018, December 20). Retrieved from https://www.specialolympics.ca/alberta/learn/about-special-olympics-alberta/our-history
Special Olympics Manitoba. (2018, December 20). Retrieved from https://www.specialolympics.mb.ca/who-we-are/history-philosophy