Special Olympics British Columbia British Columbia

Empowerment through Athlete Leadership

28 April 2017

Skills, valuable perspectives, and inspiring stories were on display at the Special Olympics BC Athlete Leadership Conference April 1 to 2 in Richmond, with 68 amazing athletes and more than 40 volunteer speech coaches and facilitators from all over the province.

The participants from 30 Locals worked on public speaking and leadership skills in the event’s Athlete Speakers Bureau 1 and 2 courses, Governance workshop, and Health Heroes training.

Athlete Speakers Bureau courses help train athletes to write and deliver speeches about their stories and Special Olympics experiences. Athlete Speakers Bureau 1 featured 24 fabulous athletes who were new to Athlete Leadership, while Athlete Speakers Bureau 2 involved 13 dedicated speakers, many of whom had completed ASB1 the year before and did a great job bringing their previous experience to the table to help build their skills to the next level.

The volunteer speech coaches were wonderfully involved, providing lots of encouragement and supporting the athletes to develop their speeches and skills on their own. 

The Governance track teaches skills to help athletes be part of leadership groups, and gives athletes opportunities to share their valuable perspectives on key issues facing Special Olympics. This year’s Governance group included a great mix of athletes who are currently serving on Athlete Councils and/or as Athlete Representative on their Local Committee, and athletes who are new to the practice, from Locals looking to build athlete leadership. All brought excellent ideas and opinions to the table for valuable conversations in the session.

A new Health Advocates session was added to Special Olympics BC’s Athlete Leadership course offerings this year. Thirteen athletes from seven Regions came together to discuss health and wellness topics and look at how they can become advocate for healthy living in their community. We were honored to have athlete Nathan McClain and Camie Powell from Special Olympics Arkansas attend the session and have McClain share his experience as a health advocate in his state.

Health Heroes training is another recent addition to SOBC’s Athlete Leadership training, first introduced in 2016, presented with the support of Golisano Foundation Special Olympics Healthy Communities grant funding. This year’s participants learned about Healthy Athletes screenings and how they can help other athletes in their communities access these important opportunities. Participants left the session as certified Healthy Athletes Screenings Health Heroes who can spread the word at home and help change the game for athlete health.

Sincere thanks also to the fantastic volunteer course facilitators who did an outstanding job helping the athletes build their confidence and abilities! Congratulations to this year’s participants! (full list below)

Athlete Speakers Bureau 1

SOBC Athlete Speakers Bureau 1

View speeches in Dropbox

In the words of athletes:

“Special Olympics is somewhere I can feel accepted and not out of place. I love being part of a team, competing, and winning medals. It makes me feel proud of what I have accomplished.” -Julia Wood, SOBC – Langley

“Special Olympics is fun, it is great exercise, and it is fun to be part of a team spirit. It makes me happy to learn with other people with intellectual disabilities.” -Sarah Regehr, SOBC – Salmon Arm

“I like being involved in SO because it makes me feel included and respected.” -Christian Burton, SOBC – Langley

“Special Olympics has made me a better person by helping me set goals and work to achieve them.” -Simon Phipps, SOBC – Nanaimo

“I've been an athlete for over 20 years, and it feels great.” -Amber Benedict, SOBC – Cowichan Valley

“Special Olympics has given me opportunities I would never have had and increased my confidence.” -Robyn Rauh, SOBC – Vancouver

“Special Olympics accepts you no matter what and always encourages you.” -Katelyn McPhedrian, SOBC – Richmond

“Special Olympics has given me friendship, confidence, and common interests. … I am accepted and respected, I am part of a team, and I am more fit and healthy. … I know that if you join Special Olympics you will love it. I sure do!" -Katie Marchbank, SOBC – Abbotsford

Athlete Speakers Bureau 2

SOBC 2017 Athlete Speakers Bureau 2View speeches in Dropbox

Apologies to athletes Cory Melnychuk and Justin King who were not filmed this time around!

In the words of the athletes:

“Special Olympics encourages me to be healthy and fit and encourages me to develop my personal and athletic skills.” -Shayne Blandin, SOBC – Oceanside

“I would like everyone to join Special Olympics. It’s not about how you play; it’s about how you feel when you play the game, having fun and making friends.” -Tracy Martin, SOBC – Mission

“In Special Olympics I’m respected and I am part of a team.” -Kim Davies, SOBC – Delta

More on Athlete Leadership

2017 participants

Athlete Speakers Bureau 1

Name of Athlete


Speech Coach


Austin Johnston


Shelly Johnston


Katie Marchbank


Cindy Suffel-Marchbank


Jonathan Lawson


Christine Berezon


Julie Black

Cowichan Valley

Necole Young


Amber Benedict

Cowichan Valley

Jean Schofield


Mykaela Stewart

Fort St. John

Kathy Stamatelakis


Megan Gourley


Tamara Turner


Julia Wood


Liz Wood


Christian Burton


Jayne Burton


Simon Phipps


Angela Behn


Stacey Magus


Betty Burk


Geoffrey Trimble


Barb McLeod


Simone Myers

Port Alberni

Barb VanZoeren


Brock Terlesky


Rick Prosk


Kelsey Thomson


Heather Jamieson


Katelyn McPhedrian


Lisa Jamieson


Sarah Regehr

Salmon Arm

Stacey Brook


Jason Newport

Salt Spring Island

Jo Logan


Micheal Oswald

Sunshine Coast

Helen Halet


Robert Tarko


Jakki VanHemert


Robyn Rauh


Tess VanStraaten


Sheenagh Morrison


Kyle Erikson


Lorraine Dick

Williams Lake

Susan Means

Facilitators: Joanne Fevens, Sarah Howe, Charlotte Taylor, Tess VanStraaten





Athlete Speaker's Bureau 2

Frances Collison


Paula Harper


Ariel Taylor


Sarah Wasik


Kimberley Davies


Brea Maurice


Maria Stamatelakis

Fort St. John

Sam Taylor


Amanda Peebles


Ashmita King


Justin King


Linda Golightly


Tracy Martin


Penelope Dobson


Joanne Steel


Sylvia Taylor


Nick Toner


Andrew Duff


Shayne Blandin


Yvonne Newport


Cory Melnychuk


Wilf Smith


Alex Pang


Jessica Souza


Mathew Schmiing


Meghan Fleming

Facilitators: Andrea Boyes, Marilyn McLean, Sam Taylor






Mike Palliti




Derek Santema




Adam Advocaat




David Johnston

Dawson Creek



Pierce Burns

North Shore



Kerri Lipsack




Stephanie Button




Priscilla Dickson




Barbie Conway

Prince George



Vincent Li




Andrew Weale




Graeme Johnston




Debbie McNaughton

Salt Spring Island



Paula Prough




Ken McLean




Nellie-Jo Kurta




Tom Wilde



Facilitator: Patty Wheeldon




Health Section

Joanna Morris




Paige Norton




Erin Thom




Jake Hooper

Comox Valley



Jennifer Ferrier




Jesse Jensen




Katie Little




Lauren Hogan




Lindsey Aarstad




Marinka Van Hage

Prince George



Mark Hamblett




Matthew Williams




Nathan McClain




Camie Powell (staff)



Abbotsford's Katie Marchbank gives a thumbs-up to the applause after completing her Athlete Speakers Bureau 1 final speech.

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