Special athletes, special cause

Marc Theriault plays softball, and he’s pretty damn good at it. Good enough that in 1999, he won a gold medal with the Kelowna Grizzlies softball team at the World Games in North Carolina. When he’s not killing it on the diamond, he’s grabbing top-tier gold medals in soccer and figure skating. Indeed, he’s the reigning male figure skating world champ.

But Theriault doesn’t stop there. He’s already getting his track and field chops together, and soon he’ll be readying his golf game for a new season. In between, he holds down a warehouse gig and helps his dad in his construction biz.

Sunday, the North Delta-based Theriault found himself in Bear Creek Park. There, he was joined by a whole bunch of other athletes, united in a cause critical to their mutual athletic future.

There was 51-year-old Kevin Lilley of Whalley. Lilley, who doesn’t look a day over 40, has been seriously involved in sports as long as he can remember, and today makes his mark in disciplines such as hockey, soccer, and swimming. He’s a janitor (a “maintenance engineer,” he says with a laugh) at Olympia Steak Pizza when he’s not training or competing, which doesn’t seem to be very often.

And there was Michaela Robinson. At 29, she’s just short of four feet tall. Yet she excels in rhythmic gymnastics and regularly picks up trophies on the five-pin bowling circuit.

Robinson pays the bills by working at the South Surrey Wal-Mart automotive department, and spends time volunteering at Staples for the “Give a Toonie, Share a Dream” campaign.

On Sunday, she had something to say.

“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in my attempt.”

This is the motto of the Special Olympics, and it’s not surprising Robinson knows it off by heart. Like Theriault, Lilley, and the scores of other athletes at Sunday’s Bear Creek event, Robinson herself is a Special Olympian. And one of its most indemand spokespeople.

Today, the bunch of them would walk two kilometres through the park to raise money for the 30th year of Surrey Special Olympics.

“They’re been collecting pledges for the past month, which they’ve turned

in this morning,” explained walkathon co-ordinator and do-all overseer Marlene Davison. “Between sponsors – the Surrey Fire Department, for example, donates $2,000 every year – and what the athletes raise, we’ll be looking at $12,000 to $14,000.”

The more the merrier, say Davison. “The Special Olympics is like a rec program, running from September through June every year. There are 14 different programs offered to the athletes. They pay a $25 annual registration fee to become part of it, and aside from that, there’s very little required of them financially.

“The money raised today and throughout the year pays for essentials like balls, travel expenses, competition fees, school rentals, and uniforms.”

At 10 a.m., the pre-walk warm-up began and a mass of humanity bounced to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” Soon, everyone was singing and waving their arms in the air – and then they limbo danced.

A half hour later on the other side of the park, the walkathon continued. Some ran, some walked, some were pushed. And all were smiling, from ear to ear. For this one morning, Theriault, Lilley, Robinson, et al owned Bear Creek.

It couldn’t be in better hands. For more info and to donate, check out Sobcsurrey.org.

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