By Tammy Schneider
More than 120 athletes will gather at the Davidson Centre on Sept. 14 to take part in the second annual Kincardine and area Special Olympics Ontario Invitational Track Meet.
Athletes from Kincardine, Hanover, Mississauga, Orillia, Collingwood, Owen Sound and Barrie will compete in 14 events, including short and long track running, shot put, long jump and javelin. The fee per athlete to participate is just $10 and includes a barbeque lunch donated by Sobeys that will be cooked and served by the Kincardine Lions.
Shawna Small, the organizer behind the event, started training with Special Olympics athletes three years ago and has seen her group of seven athletes grow to 17. To inspire them, she had the idea of hosting a small “fun” meet so that the athletes could put their training to good use.
“I just wanted to start a little fun track and field meet so they would have something to work towards,” said Small. “It has snowballed into this huge event.”
Thanks to a tremendous amount of community support, the 2018 meet was a big success. Local retailers, banks, service clubs and volunteers have committed time and money to the event and Small knows that the meet couldn’t happen without them. Last year 57 athletes took part, and this year the number registered has more than doubled.
Small has a real connection to the athletes she coaches and wants to see all of them succeed and reach their goals. She even entered two teams in the 2019 Kincardine Women’s Triathlon on July 13.
“My team stole my heart in the first 15 minutes,” said Small. “Everybody deserves a chance to crush their goals. I like to see everyone achieve.”
While Small is very pleased with the number of sponsors on board and the team of volunteers running the event, she would like to see the stands filled with fans as the athletes compete. The community involvement means a lot to the athletes who devote so much time to their training. It is an excellent opportunity for the public to see what can be achieved with hard work and heart.