The return of the Special Olympics Ontario Spring Games

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Special Olympics Ontario 2024 opening ceremonies

Wilfrid Laurier University was a partner of the Special Olympics Ontario Spring Games and hosted swimming and basketball events at the university’s Athletic Complex from May 23 to 26. 

The Waterloo Regional Police organized the event, welcoming over 1,000 athletes from across Ontario. These competitors showcased their prowess in five sports: basketball, powerlifting, rhythmic gymnastics, swimming and 10-pin bowling. This year, Karen Redman, the regional chair of Waterloo Region, and Mark Crowell, the Waterloo Regional Police chief, were the co-chairs of the event. 

The Special Olympics Spring Games were canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and were rescheduled to take this place year.  

“Laurier is proud to be a part of supporting an inclusive and thriving community,” said Laurier president and vice-chancellor Deborah MacLatchy in a spotlight released on May 9. 

Opening ceremonies were held at 7:30 p.m. on May 23 at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex and were hosted by Angie Hill and Sarge from Kitchener-Waterloo’s 99.5 Bounce Radio. Elder Myeengun Henry and Special Olympic athlete Thunder led an eagle feather raising ceremony and honour song. This ceremony is one of the highest honours an indigenous individual can bestow upon someone doing something exemplary. 

There were performances from In Motion Dance School, the Schwaben Dancers and rock band Disorderly Conduct. Each co-chair spoke alongside John Bryden, the Special Olympics Ontario board chair, and featured honourary athlete and hockey player Ava Murphy. The torch was carried by Special Olympics Ontario Waterloo games manager John Burke, special Olympics athlete Peter Snider, Waterloo Regional Police chief Mark Crowell and special Olympics athlete Cooper Moore.  

Twenty-nine basketball teams hit Laurier’s courts on May 25, the finals seeing teams Durham 2, Burlington 2, Perth 1 and St. Thomas clinching championship titles in their respective divisions. The Pistons Division saw Kitchener 1 and Brampton 1 dominate, while Guelph 2 excelled in the Suns Division, leading the pack in both scoring and defense. The fierce competition reflected the athletes’ dedication and passion for the sport. 

Swimming was held at Laurier’s Athletic Complex pool on May 23, with 234 swimmers competed across four challenging distances, from 25-metre sprints to grueling 1500-metre endurance races. The 200-metre Individual Medley saw Amiera Black, Chantelle Balanowski and Emily Boycott clinching first places for South Central Ontario, while Jack Fan, Trevor Mains and Tyler Seto led the pack for Eastern Ontario. 

Closing ceremonies were held on May 25 at 7:30 p.m. and featured performances by the Waterloo Region Buddy Choir and speeches by Mark Crowell, John Burke, Special Olympics athlete Andreas Heinrich and outgoing president Glen Macdonell.  

“Feeling the energy and support around me was unforgettable,” said Heinrich during the closing ceremony. 

The organization’s “Draft an Athlete” program offered a unique way to support these incredible athletes, allowing donors to contribute and receive recognition on the organization’s social media accounts and the event’s website. Exclusive merchandise, including t-shirts, hoodies, crewnecks and caps were available for purchase until June 14, with proceeds supporting the Ontario Special Olympics. 

The next Special Olympics will take place next summer, 2025 in Brantford, Ontario. 


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