Sign up for our free weekday bulletin.

Special Olympians ready to host regional basketball tourney

Published on

Tara Jeffrey

Some 100 athletes from across the region are expected to showcase their skills at Sarnia’s first-ever Special Olympics basketball tournament this month.

“We’ve gone to a couple of tournaments in other communities, and just decided we wanted to hold our own here,” said Tana Manchester, community coordinator of Special Olympics Sarnia, which provides programs and competition opportunities for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

“We’re really excited, and are hoping to make it a yearly event.”

Two teams from the The Sarnia Heat co-ed, all-ages basketball squad, will square off against teams from London, Woodstock, Tillsonburg and Lasalle, at St. Patrick’s High School on Jan. 26.

The tournament is open to the public, and Manchester encourages people to come out and cheer on the local athletes.

“It’s not like mainstream sports, in a sense. There’s no ego, they cheer on the other team, and they’re just there to have fun,” she said.

“Don’t get me wrong — they’re very competitive and want to win. But if they don’t, they’ll still talk about how well they played, how they worked as a team… it’s awesome.”

Manchester launched the local chapter in 2017 after struggling to find sports opportunities for her daughter Emma, now 14.

Driven entirely by volunteers and community funding, Special Olympics Sarnia boasts more than 100 athletes and a number of growing programs including swimming, floor hockey, power lifting, bowling, track and field, soccer, and new this month — snowshoeing.

“They want what everybody else wants, and you can tell they’re very, very proud to be on a team,” Manchester said of the athletes, who range in age from eight to mid-40s.

“We do everything just like any other sports group; we rent a bus, we go down as a team… we’re so happy to be able to provide these opportunities.”

Sarnia will also host a provincial qualifier swim meet for Special Olympics Ontario at the Sarnia YMCA in March, featuring some 150 athletes from 11 communities.

“We have some excellent swimmers,” she said of the Sarnia Dolphins swim team. “It wouldn’t surprise me at all if we have a bunch that qualify to move on to the provincial games.”

None of this would be possible, she said, if not for the more than 70 volunteers who devote their time to the Sarnia chapter.

“Between our community council, our coaches, assistant coaches, team managers, and general volunteers — they are so committed. That’s the only reason our programs are so great.”


For more information on the Special Olympics Sarnia basketball tournament, including how to get involved, email [email protected].

More like this