A group of St. Thomas athletes are ready to take on the world.
“We’re doing the Special Olympics World Games in Toronto,” says Arthur Voaden Secondary School basketball player Julian Rick.
Rick (who is known as the Mayor of Arthur Voaden) is excited about the bus trip, and train ride to 'The Big Smoke' next week.
He and his four teammates have been sharpening their skills since March for the three-on-three tournament.
According to coach Pam Deven they’ve even had fellow students jump on board to help in preparation.
“There is 2,300 athletes and 60 schools for basketball,” says Deven. “It’s been great for school morale because some of the other kids have offered to help with skill development or playing against them.”
And it’s not just basketball. The Vikings will have an additional nine students competing in floor hockey.
“I’m really excited,” says goalie Dan Lenssen. “This is my first time going to Toronto for this.”
With the tournament in Toronto, he’s hoping that maybe some of his favourite Maple Leafs like Mitch Marner or Frederick Anderson may pop by to check out the action.
These kids have participated in the provincial games the past four years, but with the creation of the World Youth Invitational Games, this is helping take the program to another level.
“This is my passion,” says floor hockey coach Jill Dore. “ We’ve built up this program here and it’s great to see them build confidence and then try out for other school teams.”
Dore, who is the Special Education Department head, feels the coaches are more nervous than the players for the trip.
The World Youth Invitational Games are a joint project by the Province of Ontario, the City of Toronto and the Toronto Police Service.
Locally, the St. Thomas Police Services Board has helped the cause by donating funds to the Vikings.
“The relationship between police and special olympics goes back decades,” says St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge.
Officers often attend the school to play floor hockey or other sports with the local athletes.
“We were recently at the Winter Games and the Opening Ceremonies is the most exciting. The feeling of spirit and comradery…I can’t say enough about the relationship we have with the Special Olympics.”
Back at Arthur Voaden the excitement is palpable. “I’m so excited to go with my teammates, have fun, and meet all the new people,” adds Lenssen.
The games take place May 14-17 at various locations around Toronto in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics.