Canada’s Special Olympics athletes and their families inspire on snow and ice

March 2024 – Over 1,000 athletes from across the country competed in the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games this year, each with their own incredible story of perseverance and courage.

Cenovus Energy was there cheering them on as a platinum sponsor, celebrating the talents and achievements of athletes, who competed in eight winter sports: alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, floor hockey, snowshoeing, speed skating and five-pin bowling.

“At Cenovus, we believe that sport teaches valuable life lessons and fosters inclusivity that is foundational to building healthy and resilient communities,” says Wafa Kadri, Manager, Social Investment at Cenovus. “It’s important to not only celebrate and recognize the athletes, but also the dedicated people behind them. That’s why we wanted to create a meaningful experience for the village of people behind each athlete’s journey to the National Games.”

The Family & Friends Program presented by Cenovus Energy, provided an opportunity for those closest to the athletes to come together to celebrate and share refreshments while wandering through the 450-year story of music in Canada exhibit at Studio Bell.

“The Friends and Family Reception is a special evening to celebrate the wonderful caring and supportive people behind every Special Olympic athlete,” said Cheryl Bernard, Chief Executive Officer, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and Co-Chair of the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games Calgary 2024. “The spotlight rightfully shines on every athlete in the field of play this week, but they are not the only ones showing dedication, strength and sacrifice. Through the Friends and Family event, Cenovus has graciously provided us the opportunity to celebrate the silent strength behind the athletes’ success – the families and friends who offer the unwavering support required to get each athlete to the start line, have the experience of a lifetime and benefit from the life changing opportunities and experiences at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games. We are grateful to all of these supporters for their tireless efforts behind the scenes.”

Staff from Cenovus were thrilled to support the games as spectators and volunteers, with many attending the opening and closing ceremonies and various sporting events to cheer on the athletes and celebrate Canada’s largest inclusive sporting event.

One staff member who volunteered at the Games was Roxi Smysniuk, Team Lead, Cash – Receivables & Payments and member of the enABLE@Cenovus inclusion & diversity network. “My daughter Caitlin has a global developmental delay and has participated in many sports through the Special Olympics, including bowling, snowshoeing, swimming and bocce, since she was 12 years old,” says Roxi. “I am so proud of how she has grown into a well-rounded woman and of all the courageous athletes, continually enhancing their skills and self-confidence. They inspire me and everyone around them.”

It is the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics Canada, which was founded in 1974 and has since grown to serve more than 49,600 athletes with intellectual disabilities in over 140 communities across the country. The Special Olympics Canada Winter Games Calgary 2024 took place February 27 to March 2 and was the qualifying event for athletes to represent Canada at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Italy in 2025.

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