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Special Olympics torch runs through Coaldale

Posted on February 29, 2024 by Sunny South News
Sunny South News Photo by Cal Braid SPIRIT: Runners carry a windblown torch down a closed main street on their way to the Civic Square ceremony in Coaldale. Calgary Special Olympic athlete David Hall was running with the torch every step of the way as the torch moved toward the city. Mayor Jack Van Rijn gives a speeach at Civic Square Friday morning.

By Cal Braid
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Special Olympic Torch Relay breezed through Coaldale on Feb. 23. 

Runners jogged down main street from the Sportsplex to Civic Square carrying a torch that flickered out in the stiff wind, but that didn’t douse the spirit of the day. Upon arriving at Civic Square, the joggers relit it and headed inside to a gathering of about 40 people. The event was organized by the Law Enforcement Torch Run and served as a precursor to the upcoming 2024 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Calgary, scheduled from Feb. 27 to March 2.

Mayor Jack Van Rijn took the microphone and introduced special guests MP Rachael Thomas and MLA Grant Hunter, who both spoke at the gathering. Participating law enforcement officers were present and two local town councillors were in attendance. Speaking about the Special Olympics, Van Rijn said, “This exciting event will attract over 4,000 visitors including athletes, coaches, officials and their families as they gather in Canada’s winter sports capital.”

He told the audience that the province has over 95 athletes with 47 coaches competing in eight winter sports, making it the third largest team attending. He also reported that 2024 is a qualifying year for Special Olympics athletes, and those selected will go on to compete in the 2025 Special Olympics Winter World Games in Turin, Italy.

“Let’s not forget the values of the Special Olympics and what they stand for: empowerment, excellence, respect, and inclusion,” Van Rijn said. “Through sports we create opportunities for individuals to pursue their full potential, elevate standards, operate in an environment of cooperation and dignity, and foster inclusive communities.”

MP Thomas said, “Sport is this magical thing. We shouldn’t underestimate its power. It has the ability to bring the community together. It has the ability to teach young people discipline, teamwork, aptitude, determination, resilience, and the ability to overcome failure. Sport is something that is supposed to be available to those who are young, those who are old, and those of all sorts of abilities. That’s really what today is about. It’s about celebrating sport and access to it. It’s about celebrating a society that’s inclusive in nature.”

She thanked the members of law enforcement for their contributions to public service and their volunteerism that raises money for the Special Olympics. “Of course it matters to those individuals who are going to be competing in the games, but it also matters to those individuals who prepare for that competition. Whether they make it or not is beyond the point; it’s about building community, it’s about enjoying an inclusive environment, it’s about being part of something bigger than themselves.”

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