Fundraiser held in support of Manitoulin Special Olympics attending Nationals

ASSIGINACK—Robbie Shawana, organizer of the fundraiser held this past Sunday for the five Manitoulin Special Olympic (MSO) athletes that will be attending the spring and summer National games this coming year in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, was extremely happy with the turnout and support the dinner and music event at the Assiginack Curling Club.

“I know Robbie was very happy with the turnout, Manitoulin Special Olympics always receives great support,” stated Denise Shawana (Robbie’s wife) on Tuesday.

Approximately 120 people were in attendance, ranging in age from 3 to 90, to show their support and enjoy an afternoon and evening of music and a spaghetti dinner, which was organized by Denise Shawana and prepared with the help of the many volunteers of MSO and community supporters. The weather was in fine shape as well, which played greatly into the terrific turnout for the day.

A variety of wonderful Manitoulin musicians also came out to show their support, and offer their talents to entertain the crowd. On hand to dazzle the crowd with their terrific musical talents were Debbie Robinson, Wayne Smith, Kendra Beaulieu, Lacey Neshkiwe, Ben Lentir with backup by Dan and Mariette Mifflin, and of course the host band led by Robbie Shawana with Doug Hore on fiddle, Maurice Labelle on keyboard, and Daniel Wassengeso on drums. Of course, an evening of great country music with this group would not be complete without a square dance or two by the wonderful square dancing group led by caller Fred Hunter.

MSO lead coach and organizer Janet Anning, took the time out of the kitchen to thank everyone for coming and showing their support. She explained what’s happening with the five athletes; Austin Featherstone, Matthew Bedard, Kelsey Mellan and Mark Dokum will all be participating in the track and field games in various events in Nova Scotia in July 2018 and Yuri Clayton will be participating in bowling at the spring games in Prince Edward Island in May of 2018. Each athlete must raise $1,200 to help go towards their travel costs for the games. MSO also has two coaches who have qualified to be coaching at the national level at the Summer Games, Janet Anning who will be coaching track and field and Sandra Graham, will be coaching one of the Ontario softball teams.

“It was an amazing day and we received great support from the public for the event,” said Ms. Anning, who thanked Robbie and Denise Shawana for organizing and putting on the event, and the many volunteers to who helped out. “Over $2,000 was raised through the event, which is amazing.”

If the MSO athletes place well at the summer games it will be a fast turn-around to the World Games, which will take place in March of 2019 in Dubai, India.

The athletes of Manitoulin are very fortunate to have such great support from the residents of Manitoulin, and it is this great support that has made it possible to give them the opportunities they are getting. The parents of these athletes are very thankful and happy for the support that their children are receiving and wish to thank everyone for their continued support.

As well, last week, MSO athletes Kelsey Mellan and Matthew Bedard were among the approximately 135 Canadian athletes, coaches and mission personnel who were honoured by the Government of Canada, in a celebration held in late November in the House of Commons by all members of   parliament, to celebrate their achievements at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria.

“On behalf of all Canadians, the government of Canada is proud to host our Special Olympics athletes and their coaches,” said the Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities. “I am very proud of their performances at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria and would like to congratulate them on a job well done. They are inspiring to all Canadians, especially our young ones, and they make us all very proud.”

Sharon Bollenbach, chief executive officer, Special Olympics Canada said, “Special Olympics Canada is honoured to have been  officially recognized by the government of Canada. We are grateful for the government’s generous ongoing financial contribution, which allows more than 45,000 athletes with an intellectual disability to participate in sports in communities across the country, with the support of over 21,000 committed volunteers.”

At the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games held in Austria March 14-25, Canada won 121 medals  (47 gold, 47 silver and 27 bronze). MSO athlete Matthew Bedard came in second in the 800 metre snowshoe finals, fourth in the 1,600 metre race and with the4x4 100 metre team he was in second. Kelsey Mellan was eighth in her 100 metre race and had a fantastic time of 1:29.76 in her 200 metre race.