A special program
Local group making a difference

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

RANKIN INLET (Oct 27/99) - The dream of a Nunavut Special Olympian standing proudly upon a medal podium at a national event may move a little closer to reality early in the new millennium.

So hope the Special Olympics volunteers in Rankin Inlet who have arranged to have Simon Mundey come to the hamlet this January to certify them as Special Olympic coaches.

Rankin is Nunavut's only existing chapter of the Special Olympics program. Volunteer Mark Tindall says the local program has made progress since its beginnings more than a year ago.

"The program was first started by RCMP Const. Ken Foster and his wife Kyla back in the spring of '98," says Tindall.

"He's since been transferred, but we've kept it going with myself, Desneige Lougheed and Pam Inglis as full-time volunteers and we've been picking up other volunteers as we go."

The local program attracts between six and eight participants to its weekly one-hour sessions every Tuesday evening at the Leo Ussak elementary school gym.

Lougheed says the volunteers try to ensure the participants enjoy themselves while being physically active, and are still evaluating their various sporting skills.

"We work on improving their motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination while, at the same time, testing their skills at basketball and badminton, that sort of thing," says Lougheed.

"We're still getting a feel for what they're best suited to participate in, but our long-term goal is definitely to have them into Special Olympic competitions."

Piruqsaijit Ltd. donated $2,000 to the local movement in exchange for the SO athletes and volunteers to spend a day doing a cleanup around the hamlet.

The three volunteers and 12 special olympics participants gathered up about 700 pounds of garbage to earn their donation.

Tindall says the money will be divided between outings for the group, helping to bring Mundey to Rankin and buying clothing for the athletes.

"We've spoken to Canadian Special Olympics president Jim Jordan and he's agreed to assist in paying to get Mr. Mundey here," says Tindall.

"He was very pleased to hear about the Rankin chapter and said he would be very happy to give us any support he can."

Lougheed says the group's ultimate goal is to represent Nunavut at a national event.

"That would be a major undertaking involving lots of fund-raising and we're not ready for that yet.

"The fact Special Olympics is in the community however, really increases awareness of the hardships and challenges these athletes must meet and overcome every day."

"There's a real lesson to be learned from the challenges the athletes rise to every day," adds Tindall.

"It makes you want to work harder to improve the quality of life for those with special needs and, in fact, all walks of life."