Special Olympics celebrates 50 years of inclusion

Special Olympics celebrates 50 years of inclusion

Cody Holgate says Special Olympics soccer is more than just a sport to him. His team has become like a family.

"Special Olympics has done more than I can express," said the 23-year-old soccer defenceman.

Holgate said that when he is on the field, he doesn't feel different from others.

"Here, we are all on the same playing field."

50-year anniversary

Saturday marks 50 years of Special Olympics, the global organization that offers sport programs for people with intellectual disabilities. That's 50 years of inclusion, joy and empowerment.

"We feel Special Olympics is really a gift to communities," said Faye Matt, CEO of Special Olympics Saskatchewan.

"It provides community inclusion, it gives our athletes a platform to have community, to have health benefits and sport in their life."

The official 50th anniversary celebration for Saskatchewan will go all-day Saturday at Douglas Park in Regina, featuring a bocci ball tournament and a special Tim Horton's doughnut designed by one of the athletes. 

Holgate said he joined the Special Olympics soccer team in 2013 to cope with the loss of his brother Keith, who died after falling from his skateboard in 2010.

He said he had no idea the impact the team would make in his life.

"It's been big, I've met a lot of people, I've made a lot of friends and accomplished a lot of what I wanted in my life," he said.

"It's only going to get better from here."

'A matter of we will, not can we'

Holgate is not alone. Matt said Special Olympics has helped change global attitudes about people with intellectual disabilities.

"Society has changed over 50 years," said Matt.

"We have really turned a corner and we feel that Special Olympics has been one of the buses driving that change."

For Holgate, being part of Special Olympics has changed the way he sees himself.

"A lot of time people have said I can't do this or that," he said.

"But through Special Olympics it's always been a matter of we will, not can we."