Natasha Brayshaw (middle), competed at the Provincial Games for swimming and will move on to compete at the national level in Nova Scotia. (CONTRIBUTED)

Maple Ridge athletes qualify for Special Olympics Canada summer games

Natasha Brayshaw competing in swimming; Jason Muldoon competing in golf

Special Olympics B.C. is celebrating the organization’s 50th anniversary by declaring Saturday the Global Day of Inclusion, and Maple Ridge is taking part.

Marc Fisher, Ridge Meadows Special Olympics co-local coordinator, said the Special Olympics sums up the meaning of inclusion.

“Inclusion is big. These people are people, too. Even though it has the word Olympic, it doesn’t mean you have to be a perfect athlete. We coach everyone from learning any sport to the most advanced or competitive levels.”

Ridge Meadows Special Olympics generally runs fall, winter and spring programs with a summer break, but this year is an exception.

Fisher and two athletes will fly to Antigonish, Nova Scotia to compete in the Special Olympics Canada 2018 summer games at the end of July.

Natasha Brayshaw, Ridge Meadows Special Olympics athlete, will compete for Team B.C. in aquatics, while Jason Muldoon, Ridge Meadows Special Olympics athlete, will compete in golf.

Both qualified for the nationals, along with Richard Niesman, Ridge Meadows Special Olympics athlete, who recently won bronze at the Special Olympics Canada Bowling competition in May in Prince Edward Island.

“We have a lot of athletes who succeed,” added Fisher. “To see them do something they’ve never done before is the best reward and that’s why a lot of us keep coming back. We’re here for the athletes.”

In addition to coordinating the Ridge Meadows Special Olympics, Fisher also coaches swimming. He said participants sign a contract that states they must be committed to the program and train a couple times a week.

Fisher said the Special Olympics athletes never fail to impress him.

“When I see them in sport, it’s amazing – the sportsmanship, camaraderie and teamwork. I’ve seen athletes in a pool who finish half a length ahead, but instead of getting out of the pool, they turn around and cheer on the other athletes.”

On the Global Day of Inclusion, communities throughout B.C. will light up various locations.

Maple Ridge municipal hall will be illuminated in red lights in support of the Special Olympics.

Fisher said most volunteers are families and concerned caregivers.

“We’re there to see people do well, perform their best and see the smiles,” said Fisher, whose son has Down syndrome and is involved in the program.

To celebrate the Special Olympics 50th Anniversary and support the organization, West Coast Kia will be hosting a BBQ on July 21, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 19950 Lougheed Highway in Pitt Meadows.

The BBQ is by donation with all proceeds going to the Special Olympics.

During the event, WDuring the event, West Coast Kia will donate $10 from every test drive on July 21st, and Kia Canada and West Coast Kia will each donate $10 for every new vehicle sold in the month of July to the Special Olympics.

• To volunteer for Special Olympics, email volunteersorm@gmail.com.

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Jason Muldoon will compete in golf at the National Games in Nova Scotia. (CONTRIBUTED)

Richard Niesman won bronze in bowling at the National Games held in P.E.I. in May. (CONTRIBUTED)

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