If there’s one thing outgoing Williams Lake Special Olympics co-ordinator Monique Goward has learned since getting involved with the organization in 2016, it’s how much of a positive impact it can have on its athletes.
“Lives change,” Goward said, who is putting out a call to the community for an individual to step forward to take on her former role, and other volunteer positions within the program.
“The lifestyle changes are just phenomenal. These athletes are now regulating their food and concerning themselves with nutrition, they’re wanting to be active and physically fit.”
Goward’s final meeting with the group was on Dec. 14. She said she is stepping down due to personal and professional commitments and feels she simply doesn’t have the time required to appropriately invest into the athletes.
Two Williams Lake Special Olympics athletes, Ian Stafford and Austin Weber, have competed at the provincial and national levels in snowshoeing and track and field in recent years under Goward and other local volunteers’ tutelage.
Goward began working with athletes in 2016 when she took on the role of Williams Lake Special Olympics Club Fit coach. She shifted into the role of co-ordinator in 2018.
Currently, Williams Lake is without a Club Fit instructor. Athletes are required to attend Club Fit on a weekly basis in order for them to qualify for provincial- and national-level competitions, however, Goward said the City of Williams Lake has a plan in place to take on the program in the new year through its Recreation Services Department.
Goward noted over the past several years Williams Lake Special Olympics athletes have focused their attention on competitive snowshoe racing at Bull Mountain during the winter months, and track and field and bowling during other months of the year.
She said Greg Gillman will be taking over as snowshoe coach with Fred Stafford working alongside him as an assistant. Practices will run in Boitanio Park in the new year, barring any further COVID-19 provincial health orders.
As a testament to his dedication, over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic Ian saved money to purchase a rowing machine and a treadmill so he could exercise at home.
“It’s evidence-based that people with developmental disabilities have a shorter life expectancy,” Goward said.
“I believe it’s because they’re not being invested in. When they’re investing into their own health and when caregivers and the community invest in that sort of holistic wellness you see them thriving — losing inches, gaining energy, self regulating — they want to be fit for life and have a way greater capacity for just daily living skills.”
“I’m going to miss that,” she said. “It’s been just amazing.”
Cheryl Chan, meanwhile, will be taking over as bowling coach, alongside Melissa Vanderheide as a support.
Goward said Williams Lake Special Olympics is still seeking a secretary, which could be a shared time position, alongside her position as program co-ordinator, and another position as equipment manager. The co-ordinator would be responsible for keeping their thumb on the pulse of all the Williams Lake Special Olympics programs and offer support.
If anyone in the community is interested in becoming a volunteer with Williams Lake Special Olympics they can contact acting co-ordinator Sydney Hall at 250-267-3369.