In May 2016, soon after exams end, U of G will host more than 900 athletes and coaches from across the province, 600 local volunteers and thousands of supporters for the Special Olympics Ontario 2016 spring games. It will be the largest provincial spring games in Special Olympics history. Guelph Police Services is organizing the event, in partnership with the University of Guelph and the City of Guelph.
Competitors, coaches and some family members will stay in the North Residence, in an “athlete’s village” atmosphere, and eat their meals at Creelman Hall. Two of the five athletic competitions (swimming and power-lifting) will also take place on campus; the other three (bowling, basketball and rhythmic gymnastics) will be at alternate locations in the City of Guelph.
“It’s a large event with lots of moving pieces,” says Lisa Tersigni-Holt, assistant department head, Hospitality Services at U of G. She is working with committees to arrange accommodations, meals, facilities, transportation, fundraising, and many more details to help the games run smoothly.
The Special Olympics provide competitive opportunities for athletes ages eight and older — some competitors are more than 70 years old — with intellectual disabilities, cognitive delays or development disabilities.
Also staying on campus: the 250 law enforcement officers participating in the Torch Run, carrying the torch to the opening ceremonies. This group provides significant fundraising as well.
Tersigni-Holt was eager to take on the challenge of helping co-ordinate the provincial event. “I’m happy to assist the Guelph police with the organization of this event – it’s a great partnership.” she says. Guelph police constable Chris Probst is looking after the overall planning.
There’s also a large volunteer component, and Tersigni-Holt is also helping to recruit people from the university community to assist with the games.
The athletes will be bused from campus to the off-site venues and Tersigni-Holt is arranging for box lunches to be sent with them. “Our goal is to provide nutritious, healthy meals for everyone staying here,” she says.
On Oct. 20, Guelph police chief Jeff DeRuyter and U of G president Franco Vaccarino hosted a breakfast at the Arboretum for corporate leaders to find out more about the Special Olympics and how they can support the games.
Other events will be held over the coming months to raise funds and generate support for the athletes, including selling stuffed toy German Shepherds (the Guelph Police Service uses the breed in its K9 Unit). The toy dogs, complete with protective vest and collar with K9 dog tag, can be purchased at police headquarters (15 Wyndham St., S., Guelph) for $20 each. There will also be a polar bear plunge on campus in January to support the games.
“We do a lot of events on campus, but I really appreciate the chance to be involved with something like the Special Olympics and giving these athletes a chance to show their potential,” says Tersigni-Holt.