Training Special Olympics athletes 0
Haliburton County is teeming with volunteers opportunities – many you wouldn’t think of at first. One of those is a special group called the Red Wolves.
The Haliburton County Red Wolves, a volunteer organization in the Highlands, is part of Special Olympics Ontario. They offer year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports to children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Local athletes benefit from continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympic athletes and the community.
The Haliburton County Red Wolves, established in 1996 by Linda Brandon of Minden, includes athletes who range in age from 11 to 65. Yvette Brauer, the co-ordinator of the group, talks with pride about the four sports that athletes in the community can participate in. “The Red Wolves have room to grow,” Brauer says. “So, if you know of someone with a disability who would like to check them out, they are most welcome.”
Softball John Kellett, head coach for the organization, runs this program on Monday afternoons at the diamond beside the arena in Haliburton from the beginning of June until September. At the moment they do not have a full roster so anyone is welcome to join them for exercise, friendship and fun.
Golf Rick West is the golf coach, meeting with athletes at the Haliburton Driving Range from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday evenings all summer. The owner, Wade Greer, has provided his facility, including the mini-putt course, at no cost. Special Olympics Ontario held its Eastern Qualifier at Pinestone Golf on Aug. 23, where local athletes joined athletes from across Eastern Ontario to play golf, meet old friends and make new ones.
Bowling 25 bowlers meet at The Fast Lane in Minden on Wednesdays during the school year between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. Rick West is the coach and Bernice Murray is the assistant coach. Volunteers are always welcome as scorers, encouragers and friends. The team would love to see more “guys” volunteering this year.
Curling Bruce Fisher is the lead coach for this winter sport with 14 participating athletes. They curl on Mondays at 4 p.m. at the Minden Curling Club, which provides their facility at no cost. The Special Olympics tankard event, to be held in November, is a preliminary to the provincial games. If the team does well, they could even go on to the nationals. Train hard, team!
Alyssa Denyer, a student at Haliburton High, says of her experience as a volunteer with the Red Wolves: “Curling with the Red Wolves was truly a blast. They are some of the most fun people on the planet. A lot of us were really competitive, but it was still non-stop smiles. I felt it was a great experience for everyone, no matter how many times we lost to Dawn and her team, I always looked forward to getting on the ice with every one after school.”
Fundraising efforts cover all the teams’ costs. Athletes are provided with team shirts, jackets, bowling shoes and curling equipment. Transportation for training and tournaments and the cost of social events also require fundraising dollars. Bruce Fisher and Dave Millington have biked to Newfoundland to raise funds, over $18,000 so far.
The Red Wolves depend on volunteers to coach, keep score, and organize annual social events like the Christmas party, the awards ceremony, the rubber duck race, the bowlathon, and the torch run. Without caring volunteers, the athletes would not be able to participate in sports in their community.
If you think you might like to volunteer with the Red Wolves, you don’t have to make a commitment right away. Just show up at one of their training sessions and watch the fun. Bring a friend or two. The athletes love their sports, but they love making new friends even more. Volunteers come in all ages from teens to retirees. No expertise is needed. If you’d like more information about how you can support the special athletes in our community, contact Bruce Fisher at email@example.com or call Yvette Brauer at 705-488-2282. Or, better yet, visit their table at the Volunteer Fair at the Haliburton Legion 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. There will be a guest speaker, Donna Lockhart, at 11 a.m. on Sept. 15.