The excitement is palpable as a group of students prepare to fly to Toronto to take part in the 50th Special Olympics Ontario Invitational Youth Tournament in May.
Katlyn Barkhouse, 15, Samantha Galbraith, 16, Dawson Riley, 17, and Jarrett Spin, 18, are the athletes participating on the team, while Nigel Fraser, 15, and Madison Swinamer, 16, will be helping out as student leaders — coaches that ensure participation during the games.
And while they’re excited to take on the rest of the country and show off their skills, the trip to Toronto has everyone buzzing.
When asked how excited he was, Riley said he was 10 out of 10 in terms of anticipation.
It’s a first time for everyone on the team going to an event like this.
Barkhouse, another athlete on the team, said the tournament is about much more than just basketball, although that’s definitely important too.
“It’s a great opportunity to get to know each other and work on our teamwork,” Barkhouse said.
“It’s also about going out there and having fun,” added Barkhouse.
“We’re going to Toronto without our parents,” Samantha Galbraith, 16, chimed in.
Annaliese Blois and Roni Carr, who both work at the school, will be with the team as chaperones.
Carr, an education assistant, said she’s noticed that participating in the team has improved the students’ communication abilities and self-esteem as well as their basketball skills.
The team has been hard at work, practicing every Wednesday to get ready for the invitational.
They’ll be joining eight other schools from Nova Scotia at the event, including Northeast Kings Education Centre and Central Kings Rural High School.
Swinamer, one of two student leaders on the team, said it’s been a wonderful experience.
“It’s been amazing helping them and giving them a chance to play basketball,” Swinamer said.
As student leaders they’ll be on the court with the athletes, providing support and making sure everyone has a chance to participate.
“It’s been really humbling,” said Fraser, a fellow student leader. “They’re just so fun to be with.”
The 50th Special Olympics Ontario Invitational Youth Games run from May 14-17 and are held at the University of Toronto.