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This article was published 11/06/2018 (1697 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Those who know me well know that I have been involved with Special Olympics Manitoba for several years. My kids Tommy and Victoria have volunteered for the organization and I remain a member of their honorary board.
I am also happy every year to help advance the Special Olympics cause as a Member of the Legislative Assembly.
After 18 years as the MLA for Tuxedo, I can proudly say that one of my greatest achievements was the introduction and unanimous passage of Bill 209, The Special Olympics Awareness Week Act.
This legislation made a simple but important change in our province by legislating that every year the second week of June would be known as Special Olympics Awareness Week in Manitoba.
Five years since the passage of Bill 209, Special Olympics Awareness Week has become an important opportunity for Special Olympics Manitoba to raise funds and increase awareness about its incredible programming for people with intellectual disabilities.
Each year, it has become customary for MLAs to celebrate the week by joining president and chief executive officer Jennifer Campbell, along with staff, volunteers, coaches and athletes for lunch and a game of bocce ball on the legislative grounds.
This year, on June 4, we were also joined by sheriffs, correctional officers, municipal police officers, and members of the RCMP who participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run from the Winnipeg
Police Service headquarters to the Manitoba legislature.
Since its inception, the Law Enforcement Torch Run has raised more than $63 million for Special Olympics Canada. In Manitoba, the run is open to law enforcement agencies at all levels of government. Together, they have raised millions of dollars for Special Olympics Manitoba over the last 25 years.
This money goes to support an incredible and growing organization of athletes, coaches, volunteers, and staff.
Special Olympics Manitoba now has 161 different programs for 18 different sports throughout seven regions of Manitoba, extending as far north as Thompson. There are now over 1,700 athletes, over 550 coaches, and over 1,200 volunteers participating in these programs.
The commitment and dedication of all those involved in this organization is especially important as the international Special Olympics movement celebrates its 50th anniversary on July 21, which will be known as the Global Day of Inclusion.
This anniversary marks a turning point for the Special Olympics movement. According to the Special O website, beginning on July 21, Special Olympics is moving “from an organization for people with intellectual disabilities to a social inclusion movement led by Special Olympics athletes.”
We all know that people with intellectual disabilities still face stigma, neglect, and marginalization in our society.
Special Olympics has done incredible work eliminating those barriers, but it’s time for us all to step up and ensure that people with intellectual disabilities feel included in our lives and in our society.
One of the mottos of Special Olympics Manitoba is to Accept With No Exception.
I hope that all Manitobans will join me in supporting our athletes and all people with intellectual disabilities during Special Olympics Awareness Week and throughout the year!
Tuxedo constituency report
Heather Stefanson is the PC MLA for Tuxedo and the premier of Manitoba.