Special Olympics Hill Day

Good evening, honourable senators.  It’s an invigorating moment, isn’t it?  All of us gathered in this Chamber, primed and looking forward to launch into our work for Canadians.

Tomorrow is Special Olympics Hill Day, an occasion for us to direct our attention to a movement that for more than 40 years has been enriching the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.

The first Special Olympic games were held in Chicago in 1968 – remarkably, at a time when most people with intellectual disabilities lived in institutions, marginalized from society. Most of us here will remember when this was the norm and will appreciate how dramatically things have changed for the better.  Gone are the days when the common assumption was that people with disabilities were incapable of becoming physically fit and developing the skills to participate in sport.

Special Olympics Canada has long been one of our country’s key agents of social inclusion. This grassroots, non-profit organization provides more than 32, 000 athletes of all ages and abilities with opportunities to train and compete in winter and summer sports. Well over 14, 000 volunteers currently support Special Olympics events and programs in communities across the country.

I have been involved with this wonderful organization for several years now, doing what I can to advance its cause.  The relationship I have with Special Olympics occupies a distinct place in my heart and is a source of terrific inspiration.

Words cannot adequately describe what it means to see first-hand the athletes – often, with their families looking on – experience the pleasure and satisfaction of building and using their athletic skills.

Special Olympics is about enriching lives. This is its promise to people with intellectual disabilities. I can tell you that this promise is extended to us all.  The experience of getting involved with Special Olympics is a rare and rewarding one.

Special Olympics Hill Day has been planned to reach parliamentarians, to increase our knowledge and move us to action. I know that some of you will be participating in one-on-one meetings with Special Olympics representatives who will talk with you about what it means to support the organization.

For those of you who are unable to take part in these sessions, Senator Janis Johnson and I are co-hosting a drop-in session tomorrow morning from 10:30 to 11:30 in Committee Room 172E, Centre Block Building.  Please come by and visit with some of our Special Olympians, as well as some great people from across the country who work with Special Olympics locally and at the national level.  Ask questions.  Find out how to get involved.

To borrow a slogan from Special Olympics Canada, ‘be a fan’.  You’ll have the chance tomorrow at noon, when the Honourable Gary Lunn, Minister of State for Sport, and I team up with the ‘Parliamentarians” to face off with the ‘Special Olympians’ at a soccer match to be held on the front lawn of Parliament Hill.  Should be quite a match, honourable senators, so come cheer us on and share in the fun.