Athlete Success Stories

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Jessica D’Souza, Pickering ON


Jessica attended the Athlete Leadership Program (ALPs) in Whitby on March 3rd, 2018. After graduating from the program, she went right to work, implementing her skills by speaking at her local church during a weekend mass. With help of her mentor (dad), she was able to prepare a speech, get brochures from her community council, and speak about the Special Olympics movement. People were thoroughly interested in listening to her speak, and came up to ask questions afterwards about the program. When asked if Jessica had fun implementing her newly developed skills into an event, this was her answer. “I’m enjoying every bit of the training. It’s a lot of fun!”

Justin Brown, Bowmanville ON


Justin attended the Athlete Leadership Program (ALPs) in Whitby on March 3rd, 2018. After graduating from the program, Justin has the opportunity to speak in front of 100 potential Durham College students and their parents. He spoke about the things that helped him get through his first year of college, and what they should do to be successful in college. There was a lot of feedback and questions from members in attendance, and at the end of the event, Justin was asked if he enjoyed presenting. “It was a little nervous speaking in front of everyone at first, but once my nerves settled in, everything was going well”.
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Nate Harman, Sault Ste. Marie ON


On April 14, 2018, Nate attended the ALPs workshop in Sault Ste. Marie. Like all of our athletes, he was passionate, dedicated to learning, and looking to jump into the community right away and make an impact. For Nate, timing worked out well. During the month of May, our National partner Staples ran their “Give a Toonie, Share a Dream” campaign. Throughout the campaign, Nate was given the opportunity to speak to customers shopping about Special Olympics, and assist with raising funds. Nate was able to hand out brochures throughout the day as well, and give more information about the local programs in his area. When asked how he felt Nate said "It was rewarding and a lot of fun!"

Victoria McDonald, Uxbridge ON


Victoria attended the ALPs workshop in Aurora on June 9th, 2018. Like all of our athletes, she wants to further embrace the Special Olympics movement. In doing so, Victoria has made an early impact in the community taking part in things like being a part of Team Ontario going to Nationals, sharing her message and story with swim stars like Penny Oleksiak, and more. Recently, Victoria was able to use her public appearance skills further by being honoured in her hometown of Uxbridge, meeting with Provincial and Federal government members, as well as the Regional Municipality of Durham. As a graduate of the ALPs program, Victoria is now able to take her abilities to a completely new level, and continue to be a proud athlete and ambassador of the Special Olympics movement!
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Dana Thompson, Ajax ON


Dana graduated from the ALPs program on March 3rd, 2018. Shortly after, she developed a speech and at the June Torch Run Durham event, spoke in front of emergency personal, family and friends, as well as the general public. She spoke on the involvement of Special Olympics, and how it has helped her grow as a person. Dana was able to use the skills she learned from the speakers training portion of the ALPs program to clearly and successful share her story. When asked, Dana said "I was glad to be able to share my story. I was a bit nervous, but with the training, it helped me with my speech".

Joel Devakumar, Ajax ON


Attending the same workshop as Dana on March 3rd, 2018, Joel worked on developing a speech of his own. At the same Torch Run Durham event, Joel spoke in front of a crowd of emergency personal, family and friends, as well as the general public. Using the skills learned from not only the speakers training but the discussion around unified sports, Joel was able to introduce his passion for all of our programs with everyone in attendance.
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Cameron Clephan, Ajax ON


Classmates in the ALPs program on March 3rd, 2018 beside Dana and Joel, Cameron stepped up and helped spread the news about the Special Olympics movement during the Durham Torch Run event. Cameron was able to talk with local police officers about his involvement in the Special Olympics in Greater Durham, the sports his play, and what the organization has meant to him.

Julia Romualdi, Timmins ON


Julia attended our ALPs course on May 6th, 2018. She took in more than just the information, but the opportunities that come from the program. Julia went to her local grocery store, and with the help of her friend, she learned about making smart choices to stock a healthy fridge and pantry while respecting a budget. She learned more helpful tips for label reading and making healthier food choices while shopping. Afterwards, she wrote down for future use what she learned and what to look for next time she goes shopping! "I'm really excited to be able to learn healthy tips and tricks while respecting an affordable budget" said Julia. With more help from her mom and friends, Julia will be able to gain a more healthy lifestyle.
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Timmins Athletes


On May 6th, 2018, Timmins athletes and mentors hosted an ALPs session. It was the first session where Elections Canada was involved and spoke about the voting process and answered questions that participants has. Shortly after, the newly trained ALPs graduates hosted an Elections night where members of the community could come to learn more about their respective party leaders and have the chance to participate in a mock vote. The night was a success and gave a new pathway to athletes helping athletes in a new environment.

Graeme Thomas, Barrie ON


On January 27th, 2018, Graeme attended the ALPs course for his second time, brushing up on some skills after being part of one 3 years ago. Shortly after the most recent training, Graeme stepped out to the Sobey's campaign. Graeme and other members of his Special Olympics family got together and assisted with spreading the information and message of Special Olympics at their local Sobey's store. They gave out free samples to customers, and took a few minutes to share their experiences and memories they have from being part of Special Olympics. After asking Graeme how it felt to be a mentor in the Special Olympics, he had just one thing to say. "It is an amazing feeling to be able to give back, and also help new athletes learn skills, which translate into higher scores, and a great hit or catch"
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Fareed Champsi, Thornhill ON


After attending the Aurora ALPs workshop on June 9th, 2018, Fareed assisted other athletes and CEO Glenn MacDonell during a KIA campaign. The athletes helped out in thanking KIA for being a sponsor of Special Olympics, and took some photos with our KIA sponsored vehicle. During the photo opportunity, Fareed was nervous, but was able to thank those involved. When asked how the ALPs program assisted him, he told us that "The program gave me the confidence to talk about my experiences in front of a crowd".

Miriam McHugh - Peterborough, ON


Early in 2018, Miriam attended one of our high school ALPs courses in the Peterborough area. Prior to the School Championship games, she was asked to give the athletes oath in front of all the students and coaches competing at the games. Additionally to her giving the oath, she was able to do it alongside the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Elizabeth Dowdeswell. Miriam was excited to have the opportunity to stand alongside the Lieutenant Governor and represent not only her school, but her community.
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Val Nyhout, London ON


Val took the ALPs workshop a couple years ago and has been a continued leader in her community. Some of her most recent work includes public speaking. Val spoke at The Ontario Police College (OPC) as well at a Disability Studies class at Western University. Students at Western were able to ask Val about Special Olympics, how they could volunteer and how long Special Olympics has been around. When asked about her favourite part about being an ALPs leader, she only had one thing to say. "I like speaking at things".

Daniel Marchand, London ON


On October 16th, 2018, just a week after being trained as an Athlete Leader, Daniel attended a career and volunteer fair. He did a speech in front of students and faculty, talking about the sports he plays within Special Olympics and how he enjoys being an athlete. Throughout the fair, which lasted around 3 hours, people came up to Danny and asked him questions about his sports, medals, and accomplishments. Danny said "I loved every minute of it. The fair lasted approximately 3 hours, and it was fun talking to so many people". Due to the skills Danny learned from the ALPs program, he was able to predominately use those skills in his presentation.
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Natasha Pavletich, Ajax ON


Recently, Natasha got the opportunity to speak to her local MP, Mark Holland. She stopped by Mark's constituency office and presented Mark with a pottery gift that she made. While at the office, Natasha showed Mark her 1st place ribbons, and got to chat about Special Olympics and what the program means to her. Being an ALPs graduate from a couple years ago, Natasha still actively finds ways to talk about Special Olympics and share information about the movement. "I really enjoyed this event" said Natasha about her experience meeting Mark.

Chance Showman - Sault Ste. Marie, ON


April 14, 2018, Chance took the Athlete Leadership course in Sault Ste. Marie. Knowing that the Provincial Winter Games were coming up, he wanted to take full advantage of being a leader for his team and community. To start the games off, Chance was given the opportunity to light the torch to begin the games. Throughout the competition, he was also able to answer questions from the media about the games, his involvement, and much more.
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Kristen Bonenfant - Sault Ste. Marie, ON


On April 14, 2018, Kristen took the Athlete Leadership course in Sault Ste. Marie. Since then, she's been able to plan out some leadership work in her community, on her team, and with the organizers of the Provincial Winter Games that took place in February 2019. At the closing ceremonies, Kristen was asked to give a speech thanking all those involved and to close out the games.


John McMillan, Scott Malmo, Britanny Malmo - Kenora, ON


In October of 2018 John, Scott, and Britanny took the ALPs course in Kenora. On March 25th, 2019, Special Olympics Ontario hosted "Special Olympics Day" to kick off the 50 Day countdown until the 2019 Special Olympics Ontario Invitational Youth Games. In the Kenora community, John, Scott, and Britanny spoke at the flag raising ceremony in front of a small group of people as well at the local radio station. All three athletes were beyond thrilled to be able to share their story of Special Olympics and how important the movement is to them and the younger generation of athletes in the school system.
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Shabanna, Justin, Trinity - Ajax, ON


Early this year, Shabanna, Justin, and Trinity took part in the Athlete Leadership Program. From that, they were able to use the skills they learned and give a speech at the flag rising in Durham Region on March 25th, 2019 as part of the 50 day countdown prior to the upcoming Special Olympics Ontario Invitational Youth Games. They each had the opportunity to thank the local police for their support and talk about what Special Olympics means to them.

Levon Poladian - Toronto, ON


On November 24th, Levon took the Athlete Leadership Program course in Toronto. He's been active since talking with his own club about health, and practicing on speeches so he's prepared to give on. Earlier in April of 2019, Levon talked beside a fellow athlete, Anne Gorley, and spoke in front a group of elementary school students about the importance of sport and what Special Olympics means to him. When asked about the opportunity, Levon said "It was great. I was asked a lot of questions and everyone enjoyed listening to me speak".

Anne Gorley - Toronto, ON


On November 24th, Anne took the Athlete Leadership Program course in Toronto. Since the course, Anne has been eager to use the skills she learned and be able to make speeches. Earlier in April of 2019, Anne talked beside a fellow athlete, Levon Poladian, and spoke in front a group of elementary school students about the importance of sport and what Special Olympics means to her. When asked about the opportunity, Anne said "It was good. I had fun doing it and it was my first time giving a speech in front of a crowd".
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Port Colborne Athletes


To kick start 2019, athletes from Port Colborne attended the first ALPs workshop of 2019. From there, athletes, Abby, Eric, Ron, Bonnie, Bob, Dan, PJ, and Tess attended a Parasport Niagara Festival where they represented the area's Special Olympics programs. They each took turns manning a Special Olympics both, talking to passers by and answering any questions. They also informally networked with individuals in attendance either at the booths or while accessing the different sport opportunities available to try.

Brian & Kevin Fournier - Kenora, ON


In October of 2018, Brian and Kevin came to the ALPs workshop in Kenora wanting to expand on their skill set and learn how to develop into leaders on a daily basis. Recently, they had the opportunity go put what they learned into good use. Both were asked to give a little talk about Special Olympics and the importance of the organization to them. Additional to that, they gave the blessing at a meal at a regional group in front of about 30 people. They both enjoyed being given this opportunity and enjoyed sharing their message about the Special Olympics movement.
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Erica Machtinger & Levon Poladian - Toronto, ON


On May 9th, Erica and Levon joined SOO staff member Shafeeq at the Ontario Dental Association (ODA) conference in Toronto. During the day, both Erica and Levon had the chance of chatting with approximately 50 health care professionals in the dentistry field. They spoke about the importance of health to athletes, what it means to them for support, and additionally got to share their message of Special Olympics with some who may not have known what the organization does. Both Erica and Levon were part of the Athlete Leadership workshop held in Toronto in November 2018.

Gary Clancy & Levon Poladian - Toronto, ON


On May 10th, Gary and Levon had the opportunity to demonstrate and work on their leadership skills hand on. The two of them had the chance to be athlete representatives at the Ontario Dental Association (ODA) conference and talk with different clinical professionals on health, teeth screenings, and more. Gary and Levon managed to speak to around 50 people about their experience with health and the importance of health programs within Special Olympics and the movement from younger athletes to more veteran athletes.
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Scott Schihl - Port Colborne, ON


In January 2019, Scott attended the ALPs workshop in Port Colborne. Right from the get go, Scott was ready to use his skills he learned and put them into action taking advantage of whatever leadership opportunity came his way. He was asked to join fellow athlete, Dan Tonello, to speak at a school about their involvement within Special Olympics. Scott spoke about the sports they have in Port Colborne and what activities they compete in. When asked if he enjoyed his speaking engagement, Scott had nothing but good things to say. "Yes. I like to put my public speaking skills in use. The crowd was very interested in what we had to say."

James Clarke & Samantha MacKenzie - Bracebridge, ON


Last year (2018), James and Samantha came to an ALPs workshop in Bracebridge. They've been looking forward to using the skills they developed during the course and putting them into full effect. Last weekend (June 2019), they were able to do just that. Both James and Samantha traveled to Camp Olympia where they had the chance to talk with campers about their story, Special Olympics, and why the movement of sport is so important and how Special Olympics changed their lives. They answered questions for the campers and everyone in attendance was thrilled to hear from them and meet them. Both James and Samantha said they enjoyed putting their skills into use and had lots of fun!
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Daniel Dagenais - Timmins, ON


In the spring of 2018, Dan attended a athlete leadership workshop in Timmins. Immediately following the workshop, he and his fellow athletes ran an election night info session for the community. However, Dan wanted to put his skills to use in more events. This past weekend (July 20th, 2019) Dan and his teammates went out to their local Tim Hortons to support the our "Day of Inclusion" campaign where he was joined by local media, parliament leaders and the community throughout the day. Daniel was able to help share the message of inclusion and how important the support is from sponsors and community members.

Monica Yates & Julia Romualdi - Timmins, ON


In the spring of 2018, Monica and Julia attended a leadership workshop in Timmins. Working with their fellow athletes and community, they ran a election night info session for community members. Following that event, both Monica and Julia wanted to display their leadership skills in more ways. This past weekend (July 20th, 2019) the two of them joined fellow athletes at their local Tim Horton's store to share the message of inclusion and to talk about our "Day of Inclusion" event. The two athletes were joined by local media and parliament members as well. They got the chance to share the Special Olympics movement message and talk about how inclusion is important and should be included in everyone's life!
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Port Colborne Athletes


At the start of 2019, Athletes in Port Colborne came out to the first ALPs event of the year. Since then, they have been working hard, using their leadership skills to the fullest. On July 20th, 2019, those participating leaders went to their local Tim Horton's to promote the "Day of Inclusion" donut where proceeds go to the Special Olympics Canada and their programs. Ron, Bob, Dan, Theresa, Bonnie, Abby, and Mary Anne all spent a few hours at the store greeting customers, and sharing their message and story about Special Olympics and why it means so much to them! They said collectively they had a blast doing it while representing their community!

Josee Seguin - Sudbury, ON


Josee registered for an Athlete Leadership workshop in March 2019. Right away, she demonstrated that she wanted to do more for herself, her team and her community. Since being trained, Josee has been a member on the Ontario Athlete Leadership Council and took charge of visiting a local Tim Hortons on our "Day of Inclusion" this year. While at the store, she greeted customers, employees, and share the message of Special Olympics as well as her story.
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Justin Williams - Ajax, ON


In March of 2018, Justin attending the Athlete Leadership course in Whitby, ON. Shortly after being trained as an Athlete Leader, Justin took his own advice and became a leader for his high school team, as well as his Special Olympics sports team. Justin has participated in Torch Runs, fundraising outings, but none more impressive then just recently when he was selected to represent the Toronto Football Club (TFC) unified team in competition that was held in Orlando Florida in July 2019. While there, Justin was a role model on his team and showed how much a smile could carry someone whether it was on or off the playing field.

Thomas Finucan - Aurora, ON


In June of 2018, Thomas attended the Athlete Leadership course in Aurora. Prior to the course, he knew he wanted to learn more about what a leader does and how he can impact his community. Since taking the course, he has been applying his skills into many uses, including mentoring younger athletes, assisting with skills and drills as well as helping with equipment cleanup after practices. Additionally, he helps lead stretches with his teammates prior to each practice. When we asked Thomas how it feels to be a leader in his community and on his team, he simply said "I really enjoy this because I like helping others and it gives me the opportunity to give back to a team that has given me so much".
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Callum Denault - Toronto, ON


Recently, we had athlete Callum Denault interview a WWE Superstar, Becky Lynch, during a local canoeing day. Callum got to use some leadership and presentation skills while chatting with Becky, asking questions and having some fun in the process. Callum said "It was a lot of fun. I even challenged her (Becky) for her belt, but never got accepted haha". Callum also got to paddle with other WWE Superstars during the day and share his story and what it means to him to be an athlete with the Special Olympics.

Julia Romualdi - Timmins, ON


In May 2018, Julia attended our Intro to Athlete Leadership Course in Timmins. She the course, Julia has been a strong advocate and leader. Julia has run her own nutrition info session at her local grocery store, and advocated about health. Earlier in September 2019, Julia flew off to PEI and attend the PEI Family Health Forum to bring a unique perspective to the forum. Julia had the chance to learn more about health, nutrition, and how to make some healthy snacks. When asked about her experience, she said she had a blast sharing her experience with other athletes in a different Province. Julia also presented on some challenges and barriers she has had to overcome when it comes to health.
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