Williams Lake Special Olympics athlete Austin Weber is tossing his trusted Tilley hat into the realm of the public speaking arena.
The 26-year-old snowshoer, bowler and club fit member got a chance to speak in front of a crowd in Richmond April 7-8 all about his experiences with Special Olympics as part of the organization’s 50th year of operation convention.
The leadership event Weber participated in, called Athlete Speakers Bureau, was held during the annual Special Olympics Leadership Conference attended by volunteers, speakers, coaches and athletes at the Sheraton and Marriott Hotel.
Weber — a gold medalist at this past year’s Special Olympics BC Games in the 100-metre snowshoe dash and relay race, and bronze medalist in the 200-metre event — discussed several topics including how he got involved with Special Olympics in Williams Lake, why he wanted to become a volunteer and how the organization has improved his life, and also shared his desire to bring more Special Olympics sports to Williams Lake.
His first time at a public speaking engagement, Weber said “it went great.”
At one point Weber had his audience in hysterics after calling on them to help him recite the Special Olympics oath by incorporating some quick-witted comedic material into his speech.
“At first I didn’t want to do it, but hey, somebody had to do it,” he joked, noting one of his snowshoeing coaches, Monique Goward, encouraged him to give public speaking a shot.
In his effort to attract more Special Olympics sports to the lakecity, Austin said the facilities are available, however, coaches are needed.
“If we have the coaches I think you will get the athletes, too,” he said.
For his efforts, Weber was awarded the Special Olympics Athlete Speaker Level 1 certificate, and said he hopes to continue to advance in levels in the future. He also received a lot of positive feedback from guests in attendance, and some minor criticisms.
Weber said he hopes to get in touch with both Lake City secondary school campuses, along with Thompson Rivers University — both places he was a student in the past — to possibly get an opportunity to go speak in front of students and faculty.
Asked what advice he would give to the students in his speeches, Weber said anything is possible.
“You can do anything as long as you don’t give up,” he said.
Coming up on May 5 in Williams Lake, Special Olympics is hosting a Try It Day where track and field and soccer will be the sports of choice.
The Try It Day runs from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake Campus track, where Williams Lake Special Olympics coach Deanna Phillips will lead athletes.