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KENTVILLE, NS - It was a chance to raise awareness of the upcoming national games and for people to cheer on the Kings County athletes on their way to compete in Antigonish.

In advance of the Special Olympics National Summer Games, taking place in Antigonish beginning July 31, the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) is bringing the Flame of Hope to 13 communities and cultural locations across Nova Scotia. A run through Kentville’s Miner’s Marsh was held on July 27.

Long-time Kings County Special Olympian Duane Muise of Coldbrook said it was the first time he had the opportunity to take part in a torch run. He’ll be competing in soccer at the national games.

“Having these nationals being held in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, is going to be big,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Muise said the Special Olympics is all about competing, trying your best, playing hard and having fun. It’s also a great social event where you get to meet a lot of people and make new friends.

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Muise played soccer in the national games in Sudbury, Ontario, in 1998. The teams were very good and the competition was stiff but Muise’s team ended up winning the tournament. He was also selected to go to the national winter games in Ottawa in 2000 to compete in speed skating. Muise said it was a good experience, he enjoys skating and won some medals, but he prefers playing hockey when he’s on the ice.

Long-time Special Olympian Phil Brown of New Minas, who also took part in the torch run, will be competing in powerlifting at nationals. He’s looking to add to his Special Olympics medal tally, which currently stands at 127.

This will be Brown’s tenth trip to nationals – two times for soccer, five for speed skating and this is his third time competing in powerlifting. He is looking forward to being part of history as 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics. He hopes he’ll still be around for the 100th anniversary.

“And how funny it is, this is the 50th anniversary for Special Olympics and I just turned 50 three months ago,” Brown said.

He said hopefully the torch run would reach some people who haven’t experienced one before and it’s a great way to help raise awareness of Special Olympics. Brown said seeing the Flame of Hope in advance of the games is exciting and gets his heart pumping. He wants others to share in the feelings of love and caring he experiences by being part of the Special Olympics.

“It’s like nobody is above or below, everybody is equal, that’s what I like about it,” Brown said.

He said today’s athletes hope to pass this philosophy on to a new generation of Special Olympians. When they visit schools as ambassadors, they deliver the message that it isn’t about the medals they win, it’s about the friendships that they make. Brown said, “Our pay cheque is having fun.”

Show of support

Mayor Sandra Snow, who took part in the run, said they’re very proud to have LETR choose to visit Kentville’s Miner’s Marsh and there couldn’t be a more beautiful location. She enjoys running and wanted to give a show of support.

“They are absolutely amazing,” Snow said about the Special Olympians. “Not only are they athletes but they are community members, they work in our community, and they’re juggling all these things and they’re so successful at what they do.”

Kentville Police Chief Julia Cecchetto said she was very happy to see so many police officers and Special Olympians turn out for the run. She isn’t a runner but was inspired to take part.

“I thought, you know what, if Special Olympians can put the effort in that they do, and I’ve talked to a lot of them and they’re so proud and so dedicated to their sport, that I thought the least I could do was to do a few weeks of training and do this run with them,” Cecchetto said.

Halifax Regional Police Sgt. Kim Robinson, LETR Zone 1 co-ordinator, said the run started that morning at the Grand Parade in Halifax and the ambitious itinerary would continue for five days. She said LETR holds runs leading into local, regional and national Special Olympics events. The runs held in communities throughout the province presented an opportunity to see Special Olympics athletes who may not be going to the games in Antigonish or parents of the athletes attending who may not be able to travel.

“It gives them an opportunity to come out and help support us and it just builds momentum towards the opening ceremony, which is going to be in Antigonish on Tuesday (July 31),” she said.

Robinson said LETR is a worldwide organization and they’re very fortunate to have such great support from the respective law enforcement agencies in promoting awareness of such a great cause.

Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

Did you know?

  • Supported by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, LETR is the largest public awareness and grassroots fundraising organization for Special Olympics globally.
  • The organization has raised $63 million across Canada in support of Special Olympians since its inception in 1981.
  • To make an online donation to the Nova Scotia chapter of LETR, visit https://www.specialolympicsns.ca/donations/#how-to-donate.

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