Special Olympics British Columbia British Columbia

SOBC volunteers garner awards for outstanding service in their communities

24 May 2018

A trio of SOBC volunteers was honoured for their hard work and dedication to enriching the lives of athletes with intellectual disabilities.

In Abbotsford, long-time coach and current Region 3 Coordinator Donna Bilous was inducted into the Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame on April 28.

Bilous said her journey with SOBC began after her daughter Paige was born with Down syndrome in 1993.

“We knew Special Olympics would be a part of our lives,” Bilous told the crowd at the induction ceremony. “We didn’t know then how involved we would be nor the opportunities we would be afforded.”

In that time Bilous built her hall-of-fame-worthy resume by becoming a tireless advocate for not only her daughter Paige, but for all SOBC athletes in Abbotsford and across the province.

Bilous is a two-time recipient of the SOBC Howard Carter Award, which recognizes a coach who provides exceptional training to the athletes and ensures that they are prepared to beat their personal bests and deliver high-calibre performances at competitions. Bilous won the award in 2017 and 2011.

Bilous said she was humbled when she learned of the induction and said it would not have been possible without the tremendous help she received from her family and the athletes in Abbotsford.

“To my family – without their support, none of this would be possible. To Madison, Bronson, and Paige for your love of sport and allowing me to be a part of that.  Madison and Bronson who afforded me the time away from home often at their expense to give their sister the opportunity to excel in sports just as they have and for her to be the best that she could be. To my husband Tom for juggling work and schedules to make our crazy life work.”

She also had high praise for the Matsqui Blades, the Abbottsford speed skating team, for giving her the opportunity to coach and offering her their unwavering supporting over the years, including Sue Gibbs, her co-coach, as well as retired coach Bette Roberts.

Bilous also took the opportunity to express her gratitude to SOBC.

“Thank you for inspiring me to challenge myself every day to be a better coach, for your commitment, your determination and for your unwavering faith in me,” she said.  “I am honoured to be part of your journey and it is through our experiences together, through struggles and successes that I have learned what coaching truly is about.”

Bilous said through all her years, her most memorable moment is when she was watching her daughter Paige win the first gold medal for Canada at the 2009 World Winter Games in Boise Idaho and the pride she felt as they announced Canada as they marched out into the arena for the awards ceremony.

Bilous wasn’t done there. She was also honoured by Sport BC, taking home the prestigious Presidents’ Awards for her work in speed skating in Abbottsford. The Presidents’ Award is presented to volunteers from Sport BC member and partner organizations who represent the spirit of volunteerism, and whose dedication, energy and commitment contribute to the development of their sport or organization in the province of B.C. Sport BC non-profit sport federation, representing over 60 Provincial Sport Organizations in the province.

In Kamloops, long-time Marilyn McLean also found herself at an induction ceremony on April 28. McLean was inducted into the Kamloops Sports Hall of Fame after her three-plus decades of work with SOBC.

“It is a great honour to be selected for the Kamloops Sports Hall of Fame. But it is not an honour for me alone. That honour is shared by the many people who ensure that Special Olympics – Kamloops remains a vibrant part of our inclusive community,” McLean said as she joined the 105 athletes, coaches, and builders who have been previously inducted into the Hall in the past 28 years.

McLean said while Special Olympics focuses on sport skill development and year-round training, it also provides individuals with health screening and the opportunity to develop self-confidence and friendships. She said a SOBC - Kamloops athletes once attended a healthy athletes screening and he found out that he was blind in one eye. At the age of 45, this was news to him, but she said he wasn’t upset that the diagnosis had taken so long, but rather now he knew why he never puts the puck in the net.

“There are many heartwarming stories about incredible athletes who participate in Special Olympics. For me, the biggest story is that Special Olympics allows us to celebrate the abilities of people who may have been defined by their disabilities,” McLean said.

McLean said she had a challenge for all those who attended the ceremony.

“I want you to make an effort to see the abilities of the people you come in contact with. I guarantee that your life will be richer for it.”

In Langley, Sylvia Anderson was honoured for her dedication to numerous organizations in Langley over a period of decades, including her time as a volunteer with SOBC – Langley.

Anderson was presented with the coveted Eric Flowerdew volunteer award.

Anderson told the Langley Advance she was flabbergasted to be selected for acknowledgement.

“No, I was very much surprised that I was picked,” she said. “Did you see the other nominees and all the work that they have done and how many volunteer hours they have put in?”

The 81-year-old Langleyite was anxious to get home and share the news with her daughter. She’s been volunteering with the community since she moved here with her family in 1971, helping with Special Olympics BC – Langley and events such as the SOBC Summer Games in 2013. As well Anderson has been involved with such events as the Langley Christmas Bureau, Field Naturalists, The BC Senior Games, Relay for Life, the heritage society, Langley Emergency Social Services, the seniors action table, the Campbell Valley Community Visitors Centre, the Canadian Blood Services, and most recently taking the duties of volunteer coordinator with the Langley Volunteer Bureau.

“I love it,” she said of giving back to her community. “My mother was a volunteer. I always blame it on her.”

Donna Bilous with her daughter Paige at the Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame on April 28.

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