MANITOULIN – Two members of the Manitoulin Special Olympics (MSO) team have been selected as the best in Ontario. MSO co-ordinator and coach Janet Anning was nominated and selected as the President’s Award winner, while MSO athlete Matthew Bedard has been tabbed as Male Athlete of the Year for Ontario. The awards will be presented by Special Olympics Ontario in October.
“Matthew is an amazing athlete and an amazing person,” stated Ms. Anning, who nominated Mr. Bedard for the award. “He fits the bill perfectly for the male athlete of the year award.”
“Matthew does everything he can, he practices and works hard, watches his diet and he gives the most he can to everything he does in sports like snowshoeing and baseball,” said Ms. Anning.
Ms. Anning pointed out Mr. Bedard, “is also a true gentleman. He strives to improve himself but always thinks of others and is there if they need help. Matthew has taken over running a lot of our warm-up activities before practices and competitions; taking over this responsibility from the coaches.”
“And he is such a good guy…amazing,” said Ms. Anning.
Ms. Anning explained that Mr. Bedard has qualified for two sets of national games in athletics in Special Olympics, provincial and North American games in snowshoeing and the worlds in 2017 in Austria and will be going to the Nationals again in 2020 hoping to qualify for the World Special Olympic Winter Games also being held in 2020.
“Matthew gives 100 percent of himself to everything,” said Ms. Anning. “In his athletics, due to his hard work and commitment, he has improved significantly in various sports and moved up in levels of competition. For instance, he now competes in five-kilometre races in snowshoeing. He also displays great sportsmanship at all events. All our athletes look up to Matthew.”
“Janet is so deserving of recognition and an award like the President’s Award,” stated Roslyn Taylor, a coach-volunteer with MSO. “She is so deserving of the award.” Ms. Taylor nominated Ms. Anning for the award, along with several others.
“Janet runs the whole MSO program. There isn’t anything that she doesn’t do or hasn’t done, coaching, organizing for the local program and much more,” said Ms. Taylor.
In her nomination letter Ms. Taylor wrote, “Janet was instrumental in bringing back Special Olympics to Manitoulin Island in 2006. She has worked tirelessly from the beginning. She had to set up everything from finding athletes, coaches and volunteers to booking gyms and rinks. She held fundraisers to gather funds to buy equipment. She picked up athletes that had no means to get to events.”
“Her (former) job at Community Living gave her an opportunity to empower the residents through sports. They could gain satisfaction in knowing they did their best and actually have fun playing sports while being physically active,” wrote Ms. Taylor. “Her involvement with the community has been huge. Janet was a driving instructor for years. She had the privilege of encouraging her students to assist in Special Olympic events. The students think they are helping the individual but in reality the student gets a lesson in sensitivity and understanding of intellectual abilities. As the student becomes an employer or co-worker they are better able to offer opportunities to these individuals and have them included in the community.”
“Even after 13 years, she is still committed to doing what is needed to keep this program going,” continued Ms. Taylor. “Janet is the one that gets each sport started up and organized to begin, booking gyms and sending in registrations. She knows each athlete well and has a special bond with many in the Ontario Special Olympics organization. She has gained the respect of fellow coaches and athletes.”
“She is constantly recruiting athletes and volunteers, spreading the word of what we are all about,” wrote Ms. Taylor. “Encouraging the community to support these athletes and taking pride in them. Janet travelled to Greece to support one of our athletes who made it to the World Summer Games. It was one of her best memories. We all share in the triumphs of our athletes, even if only beating their personal best. Janet deserves this award as she gives all her spare time and attention to the athletes of (MSO).”
Kathy Nickol, parent volunteer with MSO wrote, “Janet is the driving force behind all sporting, social and fundraising events for MSO. She works tirelessly to ensure that the athletes are participating in quality practice and training sessions; she leads in the organization of regional tournaments held on Manitoulin,” wrote Ms. Nickol. “Janet is continually upgrading her coaching skills through workshops and courses. She has been a diligent head coach to our Manitoulin athletes during training sessions and regional tournaments. As well, she has served as coach to many athletes from across the province at both provincial and national games.”
Ms. Nickol noted that Ms. Anning often goes above and beyond the responsibilities required of a coach, such as taking several members of the MSO bowling team to Sudbury last winter for practice and exposing the athletes to a larger and more complex venue to make them more comfortable when they have to take part in a competition.
“Janet’s approach to the athletes is positive, yet firm. She takes the time to get to know each athlete as an individual with specific needs and goals,” wrote Ms. Nickol. “The athletes, in turn, respond with respect and trust. To other coaches and volunteers, she is easy-going, extremely supportive and appreciative of everyone’s work. She is dedicated to the well-being and personal growth of the athletes and is a valued member of the Special Olympics community, serving as a coach, a mentor, and as a supportive colleague.
Regan Millsap, an MSO athlete also nominated Ms. Anning on behalf of herself and her fellow athletes, coaches and volunteers. “I am one of her many athletes and she does so much for our Special Olympics group—it is beyond words. She is like another mom to most of our athletes and she is a great person. We appreciate everything she does for our Special Olympic groups.”