Like many sports in the area, the cost of travel to attend provincial and national level events has become a limiting factor for local Special Olympics athletes.
“We have not done any competitions this year but historically we’ve gone down to Langley to participate in the provincial competition. They hold a provincial track meet every year but just due to the cost associated with that kind of a trip, we decided that this year we would not attend and instead we would hold this fundraiser to raise money instead,” explained Alex Blum-Walker, volunteer and fundraising coordinator for the local Special Olympics group.
“We have to fly because it is just too long for our athletes to drive on the bus. And with everyone being volunteers and having to take so much time off work, it’s just not an option. The event lasts about four days. So if we drive it’s two days down and two days back,” he said.
The group hopes the fundraising activity will become an annual event. The Smithers Special Olympics Sports Day will take place on June 16 and will play host to a number of events.
These events will take place at the track outside of Smithers Secondary School and will include opportunities for sponsors to compete with members of the Smithers Special Olympics track and field group.
Blum says that the group has eight or nine athletes who train on a regular basis. Events include 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1,500-metre running races, as well as standing long jump, running long jump, shot put and javelin.
“We train once a week. Last summer a number went to the provincial games in Kamloops and they all did very well bringing home gold, silver and bronze in various events,” he said.
In order to progress to the national level and beyond, the athletes must perform well at the provincial level and then they might get selected to go on to the higher levels. Those selections are done by the provincial and national bodies.
While all of the athletes will have the possibility of getting gold or silver in their division, the main goal is to promote a healthy lifestyle in children and adults with intellectual disabilities as well as working on athletic ability in the various sports.
“Our bowling program is by far the most active. I would say we have between 15 and 20 in the bowling program and our next biggest sport would be track and field with eight to 10, and swimming might be about the same,” he said.