Earlier this month, participants from the Sea to Sky Eagles team competed in track and field, swimming, softball, basketball, and other games, while their families, coaches and teammates cheered them on. “The happiness and excitement are contagious,” shares Rosa Barcotti about Operation Trackshoes. Rosa attended the event in Victoria to support her son Eric and other members of the Eagles team.
“I can’t say enough good things about this event and the SSCS staff that makes it happen,” Rosa beams.
The Sea to Sky Eagles team is a group of adults from SSCS’s Community Living program. The program provides pre-employment skills, development and employment support to adults with developmental disabilities. Once a year for over 20 years, the team has made the journey to Victoria to enjoy a fun-filled tournament of games and competition followed by social events like a dinner and dance. A parade led by a bagpiper opens the weekend of sporting events and games. Athletes, participants, counsellors, and coaches stay in the dorms at the University of Victoria, for many the first time they’ve stayed away from family.
This experience is an important one for the adults in the SSCS Life Skills and Community Access Program. Throughout the year the program helps adults with developmental disabilities increase their independence through one-on-one support and group activities. Staff members assist participants with building their skills, friendships, and sense of community. They also provide ongoing individual support to encourage growth with personal goals.
Operation Trackshoes is a highlight of the summer for many program participants including Eric, supported by his family. “It was an amazing weekend. There was such a sense of belonging not only for Eric and his teammates but for the families cheering the athletes on,” shares Rosa. “It’s about bringing the community together to create opportunities and offer the respect that everyone deserves. It’s such a welcoming and inclusive environment. The volunteers and organisers are incredible. It makes me so emotional watching Eric have so much fun with others that share the same challenges. I was laughing, I was cheering, I was crying. The SSCS staff that travel with the team offer such a sense of safety, trust and friendship. It’s just so cool to see and such a great opportunity for the kids.”
Operation Trackshoes’ counsellor system is a key component in creating an inclusive environment throughout the event. Competitors are matched with volunteers to provide support, assistance and friendship. Relationship building and socializing across the various teams throughout competition is a key element of the weekend.
“Seeing the friendships that are made is so wonderful. The events are really about what they can do, not what their limitations are. The volunteers ask the team what they want to participate in and then make simple adaptations to the sport or game to ensure that person can participate. The whole weekend is about getting an equal chance to be part of something and share in the excitement and happiness,” shares Rosa. “The volunteers are amazing. They were so attentive to every person and their individual needs, making them feel included and valued for their abilities. They all leave with a smile on their face.”
Athletes are awarded ribbons and trophies are presented at the end of the meet. The Sea to Sky Eagles have been awarded several trophies over the years to the delight of the team. SSCS sends one of the largest teams with athletes from Squamish, Whistler, and Pemberton, along with SSCS staff to chaperone. Athletes proudly wear their blue team uniforms and the event is a topic of conversation and excitement throughout the year.
Events like Operation Trackshoes are priorities for SSCS. These events outside of regular programming are some of the highlights of the year for participants and staff. Operation Trackshoes wouldn’t be possible without generous donations to the organization and the support of volunteers, families and the participants themselves.
SSCS fundraises to cover the costs of travel, supervision, and to help reduce the cost to athletes. We are very grateful to McDonald’s Sea to Sky Squamish, Alta Lake Electric, Whistler’s Creekside Market and the many families and individuals who made contributions to this year.
Donations to support special events like Operation Trackshoes will still be gratefully accepted. Financial support to the organization is what leads to smiles on the Sea to Sky Eagles faces, and ribbons proudly pinned on their chests.
Thank you to our Operation Trackshoes Donors
|Rosa and Glauco Barcotti
You can join them here: https://www.sscs.ca/ways-to-help/