Help wanted
Plenty of special athletes, not enough volunteers

Dane Gibson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 08/99) - There are 30 mentally challenged members of the NWT Special Olympic Team currently on the roster.

Team organizers say to keep what has become a nationally competitive group of individuals going strong, they're going to need at least 10 more volunteers.

"If we get good enough, we'll be invited to attend international competitions," said Special Olympic registrar Donna Hunt.

"The problem is people who may want to volunteer are worried they're not good at the sports, but we'll make sure you know what you're doing. All you have to do is bring a good heart and a desire to have some fun."

The Special Olympic organization arranges for all of its volunteers to receive CPR and first aid training. They also pay all expenses for volunteer coaches to travel with the team.

Volunteer co-ordinator Val Braden said the training and travel are just small perks. For her, seeing the athletes develop and grow makes it all worth it.

"We have athletes that have never skated before who are now competing in our figure skating program," Braden said.

"It's the same with swimming. We have athletes who had never been in a pool before who are now successful swimmers."

The Special Olympic bowling team was out practising last Friday at the Polar Bowl. It was clear from the smiles on the bowlers' faces that they were thrilled to be at the lanes.

"I'm happy to be playing sports and having fun. It's important," said Harry Beaulieu after picking up a spare on his last frame.

Johnny Aitaok has a swift, effective approach to bowling. His huge smile reveals how he feels about being on the team.

"I'm glad to be here because I love bowling. I love knocking pins down," Aitaok said.

"I get excited about travelling and floating on a plane. It's all so fun."

If you would like to volunteer for the NWT Special Olympic program, contact Val Braden.