There will be only two Canadian contingencies representing the country at the Special Olympics Global Youth Leadership Summit – and one hails from Central Kings Rural High School.
Central Kings (CK) Phys Ed teacher Lloyd Boutilier, who will be attending the summit as an adult mentor, said the international event is a way to bring together representatives of countries that offer the Special Olympics Unified Sports Program.
This year, 23 countries and 40 teams will be represented at the summit, taking place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, from March 14 to 18. The only other Canadian delegation is from British Columbia.
The summit will be held during the 2019 Special Olympics World Games. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics on the world stage.
CK currently has a unified basketball team. The unified program involves organized groups of athletes with a combination of members, some who face intellectual challenges and some who do not. Boutilier said these unified teams offer true inclusion.
“It’s a great way for our kids who have some needs within the school to be able to meet new people and to be teammates with new people,” Boutilier said.
There will also be two students in the CK contingent, 15-year-old basketball player-coach Brianna Hiltz of Somerset, who is attending as a youth leader without an intellectual disability; and 17-year-old Andre Carrier of Coldbrook, a basketball player who is attending as a youth leader with an intellectual disability.
Boutilier said the young people attending will get together and discuss ways to improve inclusion. Each team of delegates will make a presentation on a project that aims to meet this goal.
CK, Horton, Northeast Kings Education Centre, Avonview and Middleton currently have unified basketball teams and West Kings has had a team in the past. The CK project involves getting more Valley schools involved in the unified program, in part by introducing a new sport – soccer.
Carrier said he never figured when he got involved in Special Olympics that it would end up taking him halfway around the world. He’s feeling a little nervous about making the trip, as this will be his first time travelling by air.
However, he’s looking forward to the various events he’ll be attending and he’s been reading up on the summit. He plans to take a lot of photos and he expects to have some great stories to tell when he gets home.
Carrier described the unified program as a place where “friends can come together, play around and shoot some hoops.” He enjoys the friendship and camaraderie involved and said doing layups is his favourite aspect of the sport of basketball.
Hiltz said the summit will involve presenting their soccer project and working to further develop leadership skills. They’ll also be attending Special Olympics World Games events in Abu Dhabi.
“I’m very excited, I’m turning 16 over there, so it’s really cool,” Hiltz said. “I’m excited to be meeting a lot of amazing people from around the world.”
She said it’s “awesome” that there is a unified program “where everyone can come together and just have fun playing sports.” Expanding the program to include a soccer team would present more opportunities for Special Olympics athletes to get involved in sports while helping to promote inclusion.
Did you know?
- Six members of the CK unified basketball team will be participating in the 2019 Special Olympics Ontario Invitational Youth Games in Toronto in May.
- These games will bring together 2,500 student athletes between the ages of 13 and 21 from around the world.
- The games will feature unified and traditional Special Olympics teams competing in basketball, athletics, bocce, floor hockey and soccer.