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Barry's Bay Torch Run Achieves Record Attendance

posted Jun 13, 2013, 10:47 AM by Jarrod Copland
Taken from Barry's Bay This Week:

Barry’s Bay Special Olympics athletes, supporters and members of different police services head out for the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run In Barry’s Bay June 4.  The event is a major fundraiser for the Special Olympics.

Local Special Olympics athletes showed off their pride in their biggest numbers yet during the Law Enforcement Torch Run in Barry’s Bay June 4.

Local police officers, as well as officers from around Ontario joined the athletes for the fourth year as they paraded down main street, carrying signs, a torch, and buckets to collect donations from people they passed.

Det. Sherry Jordan from the Ottawa Police Service noted the torch run is one of the major fundraisers of the year for Special Olympics, raising $1.4 million in Ontario alone last year.

The money helps support the athletes at events such as the summer games, which are coming up in Newmarket this July.

The Barry’s Bay Special Olympics took a brief hiatus recently after being started about five years around by Melissa Gogolin, and so it isn’t sending any athletes to the summer games, but it continues strong locally.

Nancy Parks, a member of the newly formed Barry’s Bay Special Olympics council, credited Gogolin, who is no longer available to be involved, for starting the local group and for her continued determination in keeping it going.

“Melissa...was the founder and motivating force behind Special Olympics,” she said. “She was determined and then it started to grow.”

And grow it has.

The newly formed council has seven members and more athletes are getting involved.

This spring, the athletes played a shortened basketball season and also continued bowling in Petawawa with the Pembroke Special Olympics.

Horseshoes is starting up soon, running Tuesday evenings at 6 p.m. at the Legion in Barry’s Bay.

Once basketball finishes at the end of the school year, the athletes will move on to soccer for the summer, running Thursdays at 4:30 p.m. at St. John Bosco Catholic School.

“Because of Melissa, people were already interested and motivated and things are starting to happen,” Parks said.

Special Olympics provides year-round athletic training and competition for people of all ages with intellectual disabilities.

Locally, many parents see the value for their children.

Pam Richards’s son Travis has participated for several years.

“All individuals with special needs, they’re outcasts at schools when it comes to sports,” she said. “So this gives them something to do and gives them self-esteem.”

Parks, whose done Patrick is also a Special Olympics athlete, added the self-esteem and social aspects are some of the best parts of the program.

“Some people started so shy,” she said, “and now they’re running around.”

Richards also said, “They’ve grown so much; it’s really amazing.”

And it’s also rewarding for the volunteers.

“It’s a worthwhile endeavour and it’s fun,” Parks said, adding there is never a week where everyone isn’t smiling.

Since the program is so well received, events such as the torch run are very important since it helps ensure Special Olympics can run.

“It means visibility in the community and brings everybody all together,” Parks said. “And the athletes look forward to it.”

She and Richards noted their thanks to the police, as well as the community members and businesses that have continually supported Special Olympics.

Anyone interested in volunteering or joining Barry’s Bay Special Olympics can contact Parks at 613-756-1681 or Richards at 613-756-9854.

“I think that’s why it’s expanding because it makes such a difference,” Parks concluded.