Special Olympics’ vision for a more inclusive world has grown to empower people with and without intellectual disabilities around the world through the use of sport, health and education.

Special Olympics’ vision for a more inclusive world has grown to empower people with and without intellectual disabilities around the world through the use of sport, health and education.

Trail bridge shines red for ‘Global Day of Inclusion’

Trail is one of 22 B.C. communities honouring the global Special Olympics movement on July 21

Anyone travelling through town on Saturday may wonder why the bridge lights in Trail are a shining beacon of red.

It all began back in May when council proclaimed July 21 as “Global Day of Inclusion” in the city.

The day honours the 50th Anniversary of the global Special Olympics movement, as the first International Special Olympics games were held on July 20, 1968 in Chicago, Illinois.

Before that special commemoration, the long standing Trail Association of Community Living (TACL) celebrated inclusion in the city by hosting an Afternoon of Appreciation on July 19.

TACL has been supporting people with diverse needs since the early 1950s, and Executive Director Nancy Gurr has been part of the organization for more than 30 of those years.

So she is the ideal person to ask how inclusiveness has grown in the City of Trail over time.

“Taking Down Walls” sums up TACL’s mission, it’s what the association has achieved and continues to work toward.

“We are a progressive organization committed to providing quality service to individuals with diverse needs in Trail and surrounding communities for over 67 years,” Gurr began. “I have worked for TACL for 31 years and have watched the organization grow from one group home on Portland Street and the Adult Day Program, formerly known as Maple School, which supported approximately 50 people and 15 staff,” she said.

“To today, we support more than 400 people and employee 130 staff.”

TACL focuses on creating opportunities for individuals with diverse abilities to participate and contribute fully as valued members of their community, she continued.

“The staff, volunteers and board members of TACL work tirelessly, laying the ground work for a kinder, stronger, more inclusive community in the West Kootenay. Trail is where the association began back in the early 50’s and we have been very fortunate to be part of such a progressive and inclusive community.”

For more on Trail Association for Community Living click here: TACL

Inclusion means that all people, regardless of their abilities, disabilities, or health care needs, have the right to: be respected and appreciated as valuable members of their communities; participate in recreational activities in neighbourhood settings; work at jobs in the community that pay a competitive wage and have careers that use their capacities to the fullest; and attend general education classes with peers from pre-school through college and continuing education.

Officially proclaimed Global Day of Inclusion by the Province of B.C., Special Olympics BC (SOBC) will kick-off 50th anniversary celebrations on Saturday when Trail and 21 other communities across British Columbia light the night sky red in honour.

The Provincial Legislature in Victoria will be joined by Rogers Arena, BC Place, the Sails of Light at Canada Place, Science World at Telus World of Science, and Vancouver City Hall to mark the occasion.

Special Olympics’ vision for a more inclusive world has grown to empower people with and without intellectual disabilities around the world through the use of sport, health and education.

Dan Howe, President and CEO of SOBC, said the Global Day of Inclusion stands for much more than just a one-day awareness campaign. He said for someone with an intellectual disability, the opportunity to live their full potential is one of the greatest benefits of inclusion.

“For the past 50 years, Special Olympics has been enriching the lives of Canadians with intellectual disabilities through the transformative power of sport, but we can’t do it alone – nor can the 800,000 Canadians with an intellectual disability,” Howe said. “In honour of our 50th year, we’re asking you to help ensure Special Olympics can continue transforming lives for another 50 years.”

He says the best way to become part of the movement in B.C. and across Canada is to refer a friend or a family member with an intellectual disability to a Special Olympics program, help raise awareness of its mission and shift the focus from disability to ability, volunteer, or make a donation today.

The Special Olympics movement has come a long way since its inception 50 years ago. Led by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, 1,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities took to the expanse of Solider Field in Chicago on July 20, 1968, and ignited one of the most comprehensive worldwide movements.

That first year, only two countries participated, with the U.S. sending athletes from 26 States, while Canada sent a contingent of 12 floor hockey players under the guidance of Canadian Special Olympics pioneer Dr. Frank Hayden.

Now, as Special Olympics embarks on the next 50 years, Howe said it’s incredibly uplifting to see how much the lives of people with intellectual disabilities have improved.

Special Olympics stands as a beacon for inclusion, he said. The Special Olympics movement is now 172 countries, includes more than 4.9 million athletes, and more than one million coaches and volunteers.

In Canada, there are more than 45,000 athletes and participants in approximately 3,200 programs delivered across the country. B.C. continues to see strong growth, as there are more than 4,800 athletes and 3,900 coaches and volunteers. Howe said they’ve come a long way since SOBC first incorporated in 1980, featuring two weekends of events and about 500 athletes.

Tim Hortons will be doing their part for the Global Day of Inclusion. On Saturday, July 21, you can visit your local Tim Hortons, buy a Special Olympics donut and post to social media with #ChooseToInclude and tag @sobcsociety on Twitter, and @specialolympicsbc on Instagram and Facebook.

Communities illuminating for Global Day of Inclusion:

Major Light Up for Inclusion include:

1. BC Place, Vancouver

2. Rogers Arena, Vancouver

3. Science World at Telus World of Science, Vancouver

4. Canada Place Sails of Light, Vancouver

5. Vancouver City Hall, Vancouver

6. Telus Garden, Vancouver

7. The Provincial Legislature, Victoria

8. The Civic Plaza, Surrey

9. Squamish Adventure Centre, Squamish

10. City Hall, Maple Ridge

11. City Hall and SkyTrain Guideway Pillars, Coquitlam

12. Victoria Street Bridge, Trail

13. Fraser River Footbridge, Quesnel

Proclamations by Communities in B.C.

1. Province of British Colombia

2. Burnaby

3. Campbell River

4. Comox

5. Dawson Creek

6. Fort St. John

7. Kamloops

8. Kelowna

9. Keremeos

10. Kitimat

11. Merritt

12. Mission

13. Nanaimo

14. New Westminster

15. North Vancouver

16. Penticton

17. Port Alberni

18. Powell River

19. Richmond

20. Squamish

21. Trail

22. Vancouver

23. Williams Lake

About Special Olympics BC

Special Olympics BC is dedicated to enriching the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities through sport. In 55 communities around the province, we provide year-round training and competitive opportunities in 18 different sports to more than 4,800 athletes of all ages and a wide range of abilities, thanks to the dedicated efforts of over 3,900 volunteers. For more information, please visit www.specialolympics.bc.ca and find us on Facebook and Instagram @specialolympicsbc and Twitter @sobcsociety.