Olympic Bronze Medalist in Skeleton Mellisa Hollingsworth was in Red Deer as the celebrity guest at the 12th Annual Special Olympics Celebrity Breakfast.
Hollingsworth — who won her medal in Turino, Italy in 2006 and will be on the Amazing Race Heroes edition this summer — shared her journey from being a young athletes in Eckville, AB to being the Number 1 ranked Skeleton female athlete to a packed house at the Westerner Park Harvest Centre.
Hollingsworth said is was an honour to speak at the event and hear the stories of the Special Olympians in attendance.
“It is great that the community can come together and rally to support their dreams,” she said. “When you watch all the different athletes compete, the heart strings get pulled on when you hear about their journeys.”
Hollingsworth summed up her speech by saying she hopes people understand the importance of owning their mistakes. She famously apologized to Canadians in a CTV interview after she finished 5th place in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Hollingsworth said that was an important moment in her life, after she realized that Canadians embraced her being vulnerable.
“When you are vulnerable, it is amazing how many people will be compassionate and on our side,” she said.
Jerry Tennant, volunteer chairman for Special Olympics Red Deer, said Hollingsworth’s story is a perfect fit for the Celebrity Breakfast fundraising — which is slated to raise between $12,000-$14,000 this year.
“It will go towards our program costs for our 13 sports, 300 athletes and 75 volunteers that make up Special Olympics Red Deer,” he said.
Community support and fundraising is crucial, according to Tennant, because many of the Special Olympics Athletes are on some form of income assistance and do not have disposable income to travel and compete at the many events throughout the year.
“Last year, we sent 55 athletes to the provincial games in five sports,” he said. “We have nine athletes on Team Alberta taking part in the Canada National Games in PEI. Some of the bowlers just came back and the rest of the team goes to Nova Scotia in July.
“We have track athletes, golfers, swimmers and bowlers taking part in Team Alberta. Some of those will maybe go on to the World Games as Team Canada. “
Tennant said it has been a great year for Special Olympics Red Deer, with the numbers of athletes, volunteers and funds raised all going up.
The additional funds allows them to accommodate even more athletes — something that Tennant encourages to anyone 10 years old and up with an intellectual disability.
“If you have someone who fits that criteria, by all means contact us. It is a great way for them to be involved in the community, to meet other people, to be physically fit and to have an expanded social life,” he said.
Hollingsworth encouraged all of the Special Olympic athletes to live their passion, like she was able to.
“There is nothing better than having that purpose when you wake up in the morning and have that passion for your sport and your training. Enjoy your moment because before you know it, it is done and you’re retired,” she said.