Special Olympics British Columbia British Columbia

Meet Coach Brooke McConnell

22 March 2017

Special Olympics BC – Nelson coach Brooke McConnell says one of her most memorable moments with SOBC came when heavy rainfall soaked participants at a bocce tournament. Instead of letting the weather ruin the event, the athletes showed their spirit by competing with even bigger smiles than before.

McConnell is SOBC – Nelson’s bocce Head Coach as well as Volunteer Coordinator and youth program facilitator. She says her favourite thing about Special Olympics is being part of an amazing community of athletes and volunteers. She loves the positive attitude SOBC athletes bring to practices and says it is highly rewarding to see them achieve their goals.

McConnell says it has been great to see SOBC – Nelson grow and everyone in her Local is very caring and helpful. She says volunteering with Special Olympics is a life-changing experience and there are lots of opportunities to get involved with SOBC – Nelson.

When did you start with Special Olympics, and how did you get involved?

Shortly after moving to Nelson in 2014, I decided to search for a biology-based volunteer opportunity, as that is my background. However, right away I came across an ad from SOBC – Nelson seeking out volunteers and I immediately inquired. I started volunteering as an Assistant Coach for bowling and then got asked to join the Local Committee and things just developed from there. I’m not sure how the last three years have gone by so quickly, but I haven’t looked back!

When I started, the volunteer base here was very small, and it has been exciting to watch it grow, as well as the sports and the athletes. I have always felt a special connection with and understanding of people with intellectual disabilities. I grew up with a neighbour with Down syndrome who was always pranking me and making me laugh. I also learned about all his day-to-day challenges and really gained respect for his community of support.

What has been your most memorable Special Olympics experience?

This is a tough question as there are so many! Last year I took a group of athletes to Cranbrook for an SOBC Healthy Athletes Screening Day and one of those athletes was three-year-old Payton Birk. Other coaches and volunteers from around the Region fell in love with her immediately and couldn’t stop asking questions about coaching Active Start and FUNdamentals. It was so cool to see our adorable little athlete spark so much interest in starting these programs in other Locals. It also melted my heart when Payton sent me pictures of herself with her new glasses on (thanks to SOBC and the Healthy Athletes program).

We also hosted a Bocce Regional Qualifier at Lakeside Park here in Nelson last year, and it just poured. Everyone threw their rain gear on and kept playing with bigger smiles on their faces than ever! That kind of spirit is what keeps me going!

What is your favorite thing about being involved with SOBC?

My favorite thing about being involved with SOBC is likely the same as with many other volunteers. It is such a reward to be a part of this community and to coach these athletes, who are also now my friends, and see their reactions when they achieve something positive. The laughs, smiles, and overall positive attitudes these athletes bring to practice every day, and to you as a volunteer, is something that should be cherished and admired.

What would you like others to know about SOBC – Nelson?

The athletes in this Local are amazing people and they are willing to try out new sports any chance they can get! Everyone in this Local helps each other out and is so caring – I could not have chosen a better place to start volunteering with SOBC. We are always in need of more volunteer support. It is so easy to get involved, and no matter how small a role you think you may play, it makes a huge difference in the lives of these athletes and in your own.

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