Special Olympians bring team spirit to Riverside School

Karen Domett said athlete ambassadors don’t miss a beat when it comes to speaking out about bullying and inclusion.

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About 200 Riverside School students received a lesson on inclusion and the harms of bullying during a visit by Special Olympics athlete ambassadors Thursday.

Students in grades 4-6 won the “Show Us Your Spirit” contest presented by RBC after creating care packages to share with Special Olympics athletes.

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Karen Domett, CEO of Special Olympics Canada Calgary 2024 Winter Games, said athlete ambassadors don’t miss a beat when it comes to speaking out about harassment and inclusion.

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Special Olympics athletes — Allie Price, Darby Taylor, Damion Chiodo, Siobhan Zobatar and Leonka Kaluha They were joined by Olympic bobsled athlete Eden Wilson and RBC mascot Leo the Lion.

“Today we are going to learn all about disability inclusion through sport, the magic of the Special Olympics and hear from the athletes themselves about their experiences,” Dommett said.

RBC Special Olympics Athlete School Visit
(L-R) Team Canada bobsled Eden Wilson, RBC mascot Leo and Special Olympians Siobhan Zobatar, Leonka Kaluha, Damion Chiodo, Allie Price and Darby Taylor pose for a group photo at Riverside School for the visit to RBC Special Olympics Athlete School on Thursday. February 8, 2024. Brent Calver/Postmedios

Special Olympic athlete discusses how self-esteem ‘skyrocketed’

He said one athlete ambassador, Leonka Kaluha, tells her personal story about disability, inclusion and how she was not allowed to participate in physical education in high school.

“She has become a true anti-bullying advocate and takes every opportunity she has with young people to share that message and show the power of Special Olympics and the power of sports that have the opportunity to be inclusive and welcoming and fighting harassment. .”

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Kaluha has been a Special Olympian for 22 years. He said his favorite winter sport is floor hockey, while his favorite summer sport is track and field.

“When I was in high school, I wanted to do physical education, but I was denied it and I didn’t feel included, and my self-esteem dropped a lot,” she said.

But as soon as Kaluha graduated high school, she made the decision to join the Special Olympics and says her self-esteem “skyrocketed.”

“I won a gold medal in floor hockey in 2019 and a bronze medal in floor hockey in 2023, and I also won one in athletics.”

Leonka Kaluha
Special Olympian Leonka Kaluha speaks with Riverside School fourth grade students during the RBC Special Olympics athletes’ school visit on Thursday, February 8, 2024. Brent Calver/Postmedios

For the upcoming Special Olympics in Calgary, Kaluha said he will support all participants.

“I’m going to be the biggest cheerleader for all athletes in all sports,” she said.

Riverside School Celebrates Special Olympics

School principal Steve Radder said the message of inclusion is aligned with the school’s agenda.

“We have had some ambassadors from the Special Olympics programs come to our school to speak with our students and share lessons about inclusion with them, which fits perfectly with our school’s priorities around respect, inclusion, connection and kindness “, said.

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“It makes me feel so grateful every day to be with these students, and today is no different, but it speaks to the great work of my students and my staff.”

Radder said if there’s one thing to learn from the event, it’s that everyone has something to contribute and everyone’s contributions should be celebrated.

“Our PE Learning Leader Scott Price’s sister, Allie, is one of our current ambassadors. “Scott has been a great addition to our school and has done a great job here, and I am very hopeful that this partnership will continue.”

Approximately 800 athletes from across Canada will compete at the Calgary Games between February 27 and March 2.

Allie Price
Special Olympian Allie Price high-fives Riverside School students during RBC Special Olympics athletes visit the school on Thursday, February 8, 2024. Brent Calver/Postmedios

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