Special Olympics Canada Announces 2016 National Award Winners

Wednesday, Sep 28, 2016

TORONTO, Sept. 28, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Special Olympics Canada is thrilled to announce the recipients of the 2016 Special Olympics Canada National Awards. These awards recognize the athletes, coaches and volunteers who have exemplified the spirit and essence of the Special Olympics movement throughout the year. Award winners will be honoured during the 2016 National Awards evening on Thursday, November 17 at Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto. Congratulations to the 2016 recipients. Special Olympics Canada's 2016 Award winners are:

Male athlete of the Year – Michael Qing, Saskatchewan
Michael has been involved in Special Olympics Saskatchewan for 16 years and started swimming competitively in 2004. Michael trains an incredible 7 days a week with the Special Olympics Regina Swimming Team, The Regina Optimist Dolphins Club and the University of Regina Cougars' Men's Swim Team. Michael holds numerous Special Olympics and World Down Syndrome swim records, and has competed at several National and World Games competitions. Michael competed at the 2014 Special Olympics National Summer Games in Vancouver, where he won 5 Gold medals. Most recently, he competed at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, where he won 3 medals 1 Gold, 1 Silver and 1 Bronze. Michael continuously upholds a great attitude and is a remarkable example to his fellow teammates, and is the go-to person to help organize various drills, warm-ups and provide encouragement to his teammates.

Female Athlete of the Year – Shelly Poland, BC 
For the past 12 years Shelly has been involved with Special Olympics BC, participating in Bowling, Cross Country Skiing (since its inception), Golf, Swimming and Club Fit. No stranger to competition, this Team BC member has competed on a national level at the 2012 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in St. Albert, Alberta (in Cross Country Skiing), and at the 2016 National Winter Games in Corner Brook, Newfoundland where she finished 1st in her division in the 1KM Classic Cross-Country ski race. Shelly was also a member of Team Canada at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in South Korea, where she competed in the 500M and won gold in the 1KM race. Shelly is always training to be the best she can be, even continuing to train outside her scheduled sessions to improve her fitness and skills. She is an admirable competitor!

Male Coach of the Year – Garth Vickers, BC 
Garth has been involved with Special Olympics for over 18 years as a Cross Country Ski coach and has been with the cross country program in British Columbia since its inception. He is the SOBC Provincial Coach for cross country, having coached at the National Games in Quebec City (2008), St. Albert (2012) and most recently in Corner Brook (2016). In addition to this, he was a national coach for Team Canada in Boise, Idaho (2009) and Nagano, Japan (2005), and will once again be a national coach at the upcoming 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. Garth is a great advocate and is heavily involved in the Performance Program camps for this sport. While Garth has had success coaching Special Olympics BC athletes at a high level as a provincial and national coach, he coaches and develops athletes at ALL levels. He focuses on the development of basic sport skills and always fosters an enjoyment of sport first. Garth looks at an athlete and finds a way to make them successful in their own right through the lens of his sport.

Female Coach of the Year - Ann Kilby, PEI 
Ann has been coaching Special Olympics athletes in Prince Edward Island for the past 14 years, first in Snowshoeing and now in 10-Pin Bowling. Ann currently is the head coach of the SOPEI 10-Pin Bowling team, and recently was the training coach for Jenna Smith leading into the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles. Ann challenged Jenna to continuously improve, and that encouragement helped Jenna to earn 3 gold medals when competing at the World Summer Games. Without Ann Kilby, PEI would not have a 10- Pin Bowling program. Athletes absolutely respect Ann for her role in the sport, in their lives and in their communities.

Team of the Year – Team Saskatchewan, Melfort Curling Team 
Lead by coaches Alan DeBusschere and Brian Kjelshus, this team has been together with 4 of the 5 members since 2005. This well-disciplined, well-rounded team exemplifies the values of Special Olympics every time they compete on the ice. They are kind, caring individuals who celebrate the achievements of others as much as they do their own. The team also has a strong sense of community ingrained in them, and are strong advocates for people with intellectual disabilities. Since the team formed, they have dominated the curling scene in Saskatchewan. They have consistently medalled (mostly gold) since 2006. Most recently, the Melfort Curling Team finished with a gold medal at the 2016 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.

Jim Thompson Award – Carol Wideman, AB 
Carol Wideman has been involved as a Special Olympics volunteer and chair of the Special Olympics Camrose Alberta affiliate for the past 14 years. Carol is the driving force behind Special Olympics in Camrose and its surrounding area. Through her efforts, Special Olympics has become a recognizable and well supported program in her community with over 100 athletes participating. In the last year alone she has overseen several large initiatives including The No Good Way campaign, Draft an Athlete and Goals for Kids fundraisers in conjunction with the local junior hockey club. Carol has also brought in major sponsors like Staples, Mary Brown's, and Safeway to help provide athlete bios in the local newspaper. Carol's greatest joy is when she sees the community embracing athletes and wanting to become a part of their lives.

Frank Selke Fundraising Volunteer of the Year – Michel Lafortune, ON 
Michel Lafortune has been involved with Special Olympics for over 20 years, supporting the movement in a variety of ways, through his personal time and through his company Golden Gate Margarine. Michel's support has spanned such things as new uniforms for athletes, his participation at the SOC Festival, Wizard Foundation events, and his annual corporate golf tournament. Michel has made Special Olympics Ontario a central part of the Golden Gate Foundation as their charity of choice. Michel would be the first person to say "It's not about the money", it's about impacting the lives of athletes and their families, making a difference for individuals with an intellectual disability.

Dr. Frank Hayden Athlete Lifetime Achievement Award – Patti Connors, NB 
Patti Connors has been involved with Special Olympics for almost 4 decades! She has participated in Cross Country Skiing, Bowling, Athletics and Snowshoeing. Patti is kind, caring and a strong competitor having travelled across Canada many times for National Games, and internationally competing in 3 World Games. Her dedication to training and maintaining a healthy diet is an inspiration to her fellow athletes in her hometown of Woodstock, New Brunswick. Patti's success in world, national and provincial competitions over the past 3 decades demonstrates her commitment to her community and the Special Olympics movement.

Dr. Frank Hayden Athlete Lifetime Achievement Award – Terry Livingstone, SK 
Since 1981 the name Terry Livingstone has been a fixture in the Special Olympics movement in his hometown of Regina, Saskatchewan. An ambassador for the movement, and a highly decorated athlete at the provincial, national and international levels, Terry remains a strong competitive multisport athlete in Softball, Floor Hockey, Speed Skating and Bowling and is very committed to his training regimen. Terry is a true role model for his fellow athletes, inspiring them to be the best they can be. Terry shows exemplary work ethic and commitment to training regimen, and is often the go to person to organize drills, warm ups and provide advice to his teammates. Off the field of play, Terry has represented his fellow athletes as a member of the executive committee of his local Special Olympics Regina chapter, and as an athlete representative on the Special Olympics Saskatchewan Board of Directors.

Rob Plunkett Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) Award – Rick Taylor, Sherwood Park, AB 
Rick has been a LETR member and champion since the late 80's serving in both British Columbia and Alberta, and is one of the original members who brought the Law Enforcement Torch Run program to Canada. Rick is universally respected within the law enforcement community over a 30+ year career with the RCMP in Alberta and BC, plus 2+ years as The Chief Sherriff in Alberta. He brought these leadership qualities to the LETR program, getting members to think about the bigger picture both for Special Olympics and the agencies involved. Some areas where Rick's work has had the most impact include getting the LETR recognized by the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, engaging the RCMP in BC and Alberta and finding new and innovative ways to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics. Rick just completed a 3-year term on the Special Olympics Alberta Board of Directors.


Established in 1969, the Canadian chapter of this international movement is dedicated to enriching the lives of Canadians with an intellectual disability through the transformative power and joy of sport. Operating out of sport clubs in 12 provincial and territorial Chapters, this grassroots movement reaches beyond the sphere of sport to empower individuals, change attitudes and build communities. From two-year-olds to mature adults, more than 40,000 athletes with an intellectual disability are registered in Special Olympics year-round programs across Canada. They are supported by more than 19,000 volunteers, including more than 14,000 trained coaches.

For more information, visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@SpecialOCanada).

CONTACT: For more information, please contact:
         Allison Love
         Communications Officer
         Special Olympics Canada
         416-927-9050 ext. 4312

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