Special Olympics Athlete Ambassadors Help Launch Draft an Athlete Program

GOC Chair Barry Streib with Athlete Ambassador Yvette Degagne

THUNDER BAY – A group of enthusiastic Athlete Ambassadors were introduced today, who shared their excitement for the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games Thunder Bay 2020 and who helped launch the new ‘Draft an Athlete program. The program will provide an opportunity for community members and organizations to play an important role in the upcoming Games, through a $500 sponsorship of a competing athlete.

“This program provides an accessible way for our community to help Special Olympics athletes realize their dreams of competing at a national level, by enabling their participation in the 2020 Games,” said Barry Streib, Chair of the Games Organizing Committee. “In the spirit of the Pure Heart theme of the Games, we couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to introduce the program than highlighting our local Athlete Ambassadors and asking them to launch it with us. We are grateful to the Knights of Columbus for leading the way by being the first to jump on board with the new program.”

It was an easy decision for the organization to participate, according to Knights of Columbus District Deputy Mike Meady. “The Knights of Columbus have been deeply connected to Special Olympics across the globe since Special Olympics was established 50 years ago,” he said. “Locally, we have supported our Special Olympics athletes from the very beginning, hosting fundraisers and contributing financially volunteering, and leading awareness and recognition programs. With our collective belief that all life is important and that everyone has gifts to share, it was a natural decision for us to continue our support by drafting multiple athletes for the upcoming Games. We challenge the community to join us in our support by participating in the Draft an Athlete program, ensuring this important experience can be enjoyed by all athletes.”

In support of the Special Olympics philosophy that financial status should not hinder an individual’s ability to participate in The Games, the Draft an Athlete program will ensure that all 900 athletes get the opportunity to compete. Each $500 donation will help cover expenses including but not limited to travel, food and accommodations, making a profound difference in the life of an athlete.

The 20 Athlete Ambassadors announced today, who will share their inspirational stories and help to celebrate milestones leading up to the 2020 Games include: Nicole Bedard, Duncan Boyd, Thomas Boyes, Ian Bryan, Amy Cizmar, Yvette Degagne, Karli Doust, Gabrielle Hannusch, Roberta Hannusch, Claire Kachur, Kyler LeCompte, Joey Marostica, Edwin McCauley, Joseph Navratil, Megan Peters, Jordan Pretchuk, Tyler Rissanen, Carson Smith, Robert Whitehurst and Shawn Whitehurst.

“These local athletes are only a small representation of the many supported through Special Olympics programming,” said Streib. “They are just as excited as we are to host this national event in Thunder Bay and so of course, we wanted to ensure their inclusion in our preparation for The Games.”

And some Thunder Bay athletes are in fact doing their own preparations, with qualifying athletes gearing up to compete in the Special Olympics Ontario Winter Games from January 31 to February 3, 2019, in Sault Ste Marie.

“We hope each of them will have a memorable experience and wish them luck in their competitions,” said Streib. “We will be cheering for them from afar.”

The final highlight of today’s event was the reveal of the new website for The Games, which will be the key resource for athletes, coaches, sponsors and community members to stay up-to-date on the latest news and details, as well as to review the many ways to get involved. Those interested in learning more about the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games Thunder Bay 2020 and the Draft an Athlete program can visit the new site at www.specialolympics2020.com.