Special Olympics NWT is going to make another try to establish some programming in Hay River.

The Yellowknife-based organization will hold another Try-In Day on Feb. 29.

There will be two sessions – one in the morning for ages three to 11 years, and an afternoon session with a mix of fitness and track and field for 12 year olds, teenagers and adults.

Sandy Little, left, a Special Olympics volunteer from Yellowknife, helps Jeff Ashby with swimming at a Try-It Day in Hay River in December 2018.
Photo courtesy of Special Olympics NWT

The upcoming event will be a follow-up to a first Try-It Day in December of 2018, when four local athletes and a number of potential volunteers participated.

Lynn Elkin, the executive director of Special Olympics NWT, said the goal is to encourage interest in Hay River among possible volunteers and hopefully see some programming begin for people with intellectual disabilities.

Elkin said the organization is “cautiously optimistic” that one or two individuals may be interested in leading Special Olympics in Hay River.

“We think they may be willing with lots of support from Special Olympics to get this going,” she said.

There was a good response to the first Try-It Day in late 2018.

And Elkin noted that a person was ready at that time to lead Special Olympics in Hay River.

However, that person was the late Doug Maclennan, who passed away in January of last year.

“So we just couldn’t really find someone that we thought could sort of take that on and start running with it,” said Elkin. “But we’ve been looking, talking to people, and we think there may be an opportunity.”

If volunteers can be found, a mini-program of four to six weeks would be offered in the spring.

“And then we could look at whether we’re able to run something starting in the fall on a more regular basis in Hay River, because there’s certainly a population there that would qualify for Special Olympics and I think would really benefit from that opportunity to participate in some of the sports we offer beyond what’s already available within the community, “said Elkin.

Special Olympics volunteers are also normally responsible for fundraising.

However, Elkin noted that the family of Doug Maclennan made a “very generous” donation to Special Olympics after he passed away.

“And so in Hay River they actually won’t have to start with fundraising first off,” she said, noting the money is used for such things as facility rentals.

“We would really like to carry on what Doug had hoped would happen,” Elkin added.

At the moment, the only NWT community with Special Olympics is Yellowknife.

“I’ve been poking away at Hay River for about six years,” said Elkin, noting that people from the community have seen Special Olympics run in Yellowknife and expressed an interest in it being established in Hay River.

“And so because we’ve had enough people suggest that there is an opportunity there and they think it would provide value to the community, we’d just like to give it a go,” said Elkin.

“If we end up always never being able to do it anywhere smaller than Yellowknife, well that would be too bad, because it really does open a lot doors, and amazing things can happen for athletes who are given a chance to gain self-confidence on the playing field.”

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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