Special Olympics BC Sports Celebrity Festival 2016

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Frances Collison and Brandon Sutter of the Vancouver Canucks.

Frances Collison and Brandon Sutter of the Vancouver Canucks.

When I walked into the Vancouver Convention Center I saw bright lights and backdrops, as if I was at The American Music Awards.  There were small versions of sports games on both sides of the room.  Across the banquet hall, covered with white tablecloths, were the silent auction tables.  The tables were filled with prizes.  For $25.00, people could have their picture taken with players from the Vancouver Canucks.  There were about sixty tables set up for a beautiful rib dinner.  Bars were set up so people could have a cocktail drink while bidding for auction items and.  At 7:00 pm the gala began with a grand parade of celebrities.  I was paired to enter alongside Brandon Sutter.  All the Special Olympic athletes were paired with a Canucks player.  It was wonderful seeing so many people out to support such an awesome fundraiser for Special Olympics and for Canucks Kids.  Over the evening, around $460,000 was raised for these charities.

When it came time for my speech, I was nervous yet very excited.  My speech was filmed and can be found on Vimeo and YouTube.  I have included it below.

Hello everyone.  Are you as excited to be here as I am?  In September, when I was picked to represent Special Olympics athletes at this Sports Celebrities Festival, I felt a spark of joy and happiness!  I couldn’t believe that this opportunity would be happening to me.  What a great honor it is to be here tonight!  I would like to thank my new friend here, Brandon Sutter, and all the players of the Vancouver Canucks, for supporting Special Olympics BC.  I am thrilled to be here to speak about what Special Olympics means to me.  I live in Creston, BC and I have been involved in Special Olympics for four years.  I became involved in 2013, when I joined the bowling team, next the swim team, and lastly when I joined the golf team in 2015.  I want to share with you that Special Olympics is more than just a sports program to me.  When I think about Special Olympics, I think about the following three words:  Fun, Friends and Fame.

Being a part of Special Olympics is fun! When I go out to play golf with my coach and teammates, I feel proud to be out there golfing.  Being able to do sports has given me new skills and a healthy lifestyle.  It also helps me gain confidence in myself.  The more I compete, the better I get and, over time, the more I believe in myself! Wow, these feelings make me love playing sports!  Being involved in sports, I get to travel to swim meets and golf and bowling tournaments. I am gaining independence.  I have fun meeting new people in new places and participating in these Special Olympics events.  I really love it when I receive first place ribbons and other prizes!

I meet new friends by being involved with Special Olympics.  I love being part of a team.   It brings out the best in everyone! What a big deal it was to travel to the swim meet in Castlegar in April this year with my teammates and my coach, Bree.  I was swimming in my lane and hearing my mom with all my teammates chanting from the sidelines, “Go Frances, go Frances go!”  It was the encouragement I needed to break my own personal records. I was very proud of myself.  My coach works so hard by volunteering her time, energy and passion to give to Special Olympics athletes like me.  All my coaches push me to go faster and try harder because they are convinced I can do more.  My coaches are my friends and a huge support to me.

Lastly, I want to talk about fame.  I have always dreamed of being famous in Hollywood.  Well… standing here next to Brandon Sutter at this Gala tonight, I am feeling pretty famous!  Also, I am a bit of a celebrity in my home town of Creston.  It is because of Special Olympics I have my picture with Brandon in our local paper and on the Special Olympics website.  I feel like I’m getting noticed.  However, more importantly, it is the fans I have in Special Olympics that I motivate that are important.  When other people, who have the same disability as I have, see me doing Special Olympics sports (that they think are impossible for them to do), they see hope.  They hope that someday they will be able to do that sport too . . . just like I do!  I think this happens for Brandon Sutter too!  Lots of young hockey players look up to him and want to play hockey just like he does! We are role models in our own way!  This makes me feel proud! I feel so lucky to be part of something so special!

In Special Olympics people see Frances Collison first and not Down syndrome with its challenges.  They see Frances and what she is capable of!  Special Olympics unites and strengthens every one of us in this room!

Special Olympics athletes, like me, can reach their dreams!

Giving my speech at the Special Olympics BC Sports Celebrity Festival was the most memorable event of my life so far.  I am so thankful my mother was able to come and see her daughter alongside a famous sports celebrity, my new friend Brandon Sutter.  How will I top that?  Stay tuned.  I am going places!