The 10th annual Special Olympics Red Deer Celebrity Breakfast went Tuesday morning.
The event, which featured Olympic Gold Medallists Jamie Salé and David Pelletier as well as local Scotties champ Jocelyn Peterman, raised close to $15,000 to send athletes to competitions as well as provide them with jerseys and other equipment.
Special Olympics Red Deer Chairperson Jerry Tennant says the organization's budget is about $115,000 and this breakfast is the largest fundraiser each year.
"We're always open to having anyone involved. Our athletes are anywhere from two-years-old to senior citizens. There are a lot of people out there who could take part but don't know about us," he says.
As for the guest speakers, Tennant says "We couldn't do it without them. A lot of people come because it's a worthy cause, but having some of these athletes who are international figures come out and speak, and not one them has ever charged us a fee, they speak and are passionate about it. The whole thing is to have a breakfast that is fun and informative."
Peterman lives in Calgary now but for the last four years has coached Special Olympics Softball in Red Deer.
"It's just inspiring to see them so excited to show up especially when my own competitions were getting so competitive and we would show up some days and just not want to be there. They were just the opposite," admits Peterman. "It inspired me to have that passion again for what I was doing."
Pelletier, who supports the Special Olympics Canada Champions Network, says sometimes athletes get too caught up in the popularity contest that is pro sports.
"We say 'l hope my family thinks I'm special, I want to make money, I want to become famous.' None of this exists in the world of Special Olympics. They're just people being active for the right reasons."
"As long as you play the sport, it doesn't matter if you have a mental or physical disability," he continues. "Look at 25 years ago and where were the Paralympics and now they're part of the Olympic movement. Time and effort will get us there."
Jamie Salé, who's now on the Board of Directors for Special Olympics Canada, calls those big competitions she competed in "the generic Olympics."
"When we watch the Special Olympics athletes, it really brings us back to when we were kids and why we started playing sports. The true meaning of sports is the joy and fun you have doing it."
Salé, who's father coached Special Olympics in Red Deer, will be the honourary coach for next year's team headed to the World Games in Austria.
300 of Alberta's 3,100 Special Olympics athletes are in Red Deer.
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