Our History in Brockville
(While we have done our best to reflect our history accurately we may have inadvertently failed to recognize others who were involved in the beginnings of Special Olympics in Brockville and Area.)
Peter Windsor and Helen McAllister-Windsor spearheaded the establishment of Brockville’s Special Olympics movement in the late 1980’s. Helen had her sights set on establishing a swimming program, recruiting Doris McEwan to assist her with coaching at the old Rotary pool, while Peter made plans to establish both the floor hockey and baseball, in the gym of St Lawrence College and at the Legion ball diamonds. Peter was able to recruit 2 volunteers, Dave McCourt and Steve Champagne, to help him coach floor hockey; however Peter was the sole coach for baseball.
During this time, many of the athletes were clients receiving support from BACLA (Brockville and Area Community Living Association), where both Peter and Helen were employed. Athletes not associated with BACLA were generally recruited by Peter and Helen, as they would meet others with intellectual disabilities by chance in the community. In this way, and by speaking at community seminars, word spread and programs were expanded.
All 3 programs (floor hockey, baseball, and swimming) attended many tournaments/meets across what was known then as Region 7. In 1992, Peter, Dave and Steve took their floor hockey team to the Provincial Floor Hockey Championships in Markham Ontario.
During this development period, there was a great deal of support from Debbie Ryan, who was also employed with BACLA. She supported all of Brockville’s efforts to advance the sporting programs, and was also primarily responsible for helping to organize the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run with our local Police Department.
With the encouragement of the Provincial office of Special Olympics, Brockville and area formed a council/executive with the previously mentioned people and other volunteers including Tammy Eliott and Dana Humphrey from Prescott, among others.
Brockville and area Special Olympics continued like this until about 1995 but then faltered for a while as Peter and Helen had to divert their time elsewhere until Roy Brooks and Frank Condron joined the organization. Frank and Roy coached extensively and became involved with the community council serving in various capacities including the community coordinator position. They can still be found coaching and attending various fund raising and public awareness events.
Peter recalls his time with Special Olympics as “both very exciting, but yet very demanding, especially in the early growing years of establishing not only the sporting programs but also an executive.” Having said that, he wouldn’t have changed the experience for anything. “They were growing years, but some of my best years giving back to my community and helping our athletes achieve goals.”
From this genesis the organization has grown and more volunteers have come forward to expand the number of sports being offered to about 11 and to attract more athletes, coaches and other volunteers. There are now more than 80 athletes and 70 volunteers. Illustrations of some of our successes are listed under the ‘about us’ page.
The origin of the ‘Islanders’ team name:
Do you wonder where the team name the ‘Islanders’ used by most of our sport programs came from? It originated in the 1980’s when the floor hockey team chose the name in order to attend meets and tournaments.
One long term coach, Penney, traveled with athletes to attend the very first SO games in Canada in 1969.
Penney took athletes from schools to the first games in 1969! Here is what she had to say:
“I took a team to those 1969 Games in Toronto – another teacher and I took six students from the school where we worked (in Beaconsfield, QC) to compete in Track and Field and Swimming. We travelled to Toronto by train, stayed at the Royal York and we had a blast. I’m not sure how we found out about the games but we did and it was a great experience for everyone. Most of my athletes had never been on a train before, nor stayed in a hotel with an elevator nor chosen food from a buffet – or even been away from home overnight before. Things were very different in those days.”