Returning Special Olympians get rock star treatment from school, community
It was a reception fit for royalty.Students, teachers and dignitaries from St. Thomas lined the halls of Arthur Voaden Secondary School to welcome back the 14 Special Olympic gold medallists from the World Youth Games in Toronto.
“It was really nice seeing my friends cheering me on,” says Special Olympics basketball player Lucas Braun.”
Floor hockey player Stafford McVeigh had butterflies as he entered the hallway. “It was nerve wracking at first, but once we got going…everything was fun.”
The Vikings won their division in both floor hockey and basketball last week.The athletes were excited to see Mayor Joe Preston and St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge as well as the other officers and firefighters on hand.
The feeling was mutual. “I got to see them on the street in Toronto last week during the competition,” says Preston.
“To see them make friends with teams from around the world, it’s a proud moment for St. Thomas. But they also spread the good word about St. Thomas while they were there.”
St. Thomas police gave them a sendoff last week before they left, and were proud to be in attendance for their welcome reception.
“We've been involved with these athletes for so many years,” says Herridge. “This is another proud moment, for Special Olympians and the police service. To be here today is just awesome.”
Floor Hockey Head Coach Jill Dore was overwhelmed by the response from the community, including having CTV in attendance.
“To have the mayor, fire, and police supporting those kids means so much.They not only won for the community but the school too.”
The athletes described the competition as tough, and the memories unforgettable.Even with gold in sight, they stuck to their ideologies.
“We made sure we passed the ball around, and we made sure everyone got one basket in” says Braun. “Making new friends and attending the dance was awesome too.”
Head basketball coach Pam Deven left the games inspired, and plans on bringing the vision back to her classroom.
“At the opening ceremonies they said, ‘We rise by lifting others up,’ and that's my philosophy in sport. We encouraged each other and strive to be more positive. I believe we need to lift each other up in schools, and homes to make world a better place.”
After the parade, the team won’t have much time to bask in their championship glory. They are back in action Wednesday at the St. Joe’s Invitational Track and Field Meet.