The Special Olympics flag was raised at the Civic Centre Wednesday as the 2019 Special Olympics Ontario Provincial Winter Games approach.
The games, which are held every four years on a rotating basis, will run in Sault Ste. Marie from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics, the Knights of Columbus having supported the event throughout the entire period across Canada and the U.S.
“We work with Special Olympians whichever way we can,” said the Sault’s Bob Turco, a Knights of Columbus District Deputy for District 38, and a 43-year member of the fraternity.
Sault Ste. Marie’s Knights of Columbus fraternity consists of five councils, each one to come together and present a cheque for Special Olympics “very soon,” Turco told SooToday.
Prior to the raising of the flag, Turco delivered a brief speech to an audience of Special Olympics athletes, parents, coaches, volunteers, city staff and fellow Knights of Columbus members (clothed in full Knights regalia) gathered in the Civic Centre lobby.
“The Special Olympics athletes are our children and adults with disabilities who find support and fellowship in our community and have fun participating in the Games, becoming confident and empowered by their accomplishments,” Turco said.
“These athletes do not compete on television...but are given an opportunity to flourish and grow,” Turco said, adding there is a constant need for funding, coaches and volunteers in Special Olympics.
“Please show your support for these athletes as they strive to fulfill the motto of the Special Olympics; ‘Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt,’” Turco said.
The flag, Turco told the audience, will be flown at the Civic Centre and various other locations throughout the city until Jan. 21, then in three other cities as the flag relay continues.
Sandra Hollingsworth, Ward One city councillor, representing the City of Sault Ste. Marie, thanked the local Knights of Columbus for their ongoing support for Special Olympics over the past 50 years (and Turco in particular for organizing Wednesday’s flag raising).
“As a community we are proud of the many Saultites who have been involved over the years with the Special Olympics, whether as athletes, coaches, organizers, supporters (because) to make this happen, the logistics involved are great.”
“We are very proud to be hosting the 2019 Special Olympics Ontario Provincial Winter Games...winter sports and Sault Ste. Marie are a natural fit,” Hollingsworth said, cheerfully pointing to the snowy landscape outside the Civic Centre, drawing applause from the audience.
To the athletes gathered at the Civic Centre, Hollingsworth said “I wish you, on behalf of city council, the mayor, everyone who lives in this community, all the best. I know you’re going to enjoy every moment. How wonderful it is to show off your community to so many athletes coming here, and showing your abilities...all of you are going to be just terrific,” adding many city employees will be taking part in the Games as volunteers.
The Games will include Nordic skiing, Alpine skiing, figure skating, speed skating, curling and snowshoeing, to be held at the John Rhodes Community Centre, GFL Memorial Gardens, Community First Curling Centre, Searchmont Ski Resort and Hiawatha.
For more information, visit the Games website.