Special Olympics Coming to Mississauga This Summer

While almost all sporting events are exciting in their own way, there's something particularly special (pardon the unintended pun) about the Special Olympics, an acclaimed celebration of athletes with intellectual disabilities.

This year, for the first time ever, the games are being sponsored by Peel Regional Police and they're set to run from July 13-16.

Athletes will play all over the region (in Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga) and they'll partake in soccer, athletics, bocce, softball and golf.

"There are athletes from across Ontario, 756 of them," says Michael Fusco, marketing and fundraising coordinator with Special Olympics Ontario. "We'll need over 600 volunteers to make the games a success."

The Special Olympics has been happening for decades, with the first sports competitions organized under the Special Olympics banner held at Soldier's Field in Chicago in 1968. Much like in the able-bodied olympics, the athletes will go on to Canada games and world games.

As far as venues go, games and competitions will be played in Brampton at Terry Fox Stadium and Century Garden, in Mississauga at Huron Park and Dunton Athletic Fields and Caledon at the Caledon Country Club.

The opening and closing ceremonies will be held at the Brampton-based Powerade Centre.

"We will have a special speaker and celebs at ceremonies, but no information is available just yet. That info won't come out to closer to game time," says Fusco.

Traditionally, local games are hosted by Ontario police forces have been since the 1970s.

"This will be the first time that Peel has hosted it," says Fusco. "Spring 2016 was in held in Guelph and Winter 2015 was in North Bay. It was something that Chief Jennifer Evans wanted to take on and they started planning last year."

In terms of competitors, Fusco says the athletes come from all over the region and beyond. This year, some competitors include 22-year-old Brampton resident and Humber College student Kristen Domingues, Mississauga golf champion Kevin Pritchard and Brampton basketball player Taylan Peters.

One of the most exciting aspects of the games is the opportunity it gives local community members to adopt an athlete. Fusco said that, so far, over 200 athletes have been adopted.

"You don't have to buy tickets to the event, you can just show up," he says. "Opening ceremonies are closed to athletes, families and partners, but we're encouraging the public to volunteer and volunteer registration closes May 1."

Fusco said that organization is hoping businesses and individuals will adopt for $500, as the proceeds help cover the cost of the games. Residents who choose to adopt get a biography of the athlete and their sporting event schedule. They also get a charitable tax receipt.

If you cannot afford to adopt an athlete, you can help by volunteering.

"You can volunteer as a family, or as a team builder for work," says Fusco. "And you can adopt an athlete right up until the games start."

For more information on the games and how to get involved, click here.

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