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Flag raising celebrates 50th anniversary of Special Olympics

On March 25, representatives from Community Living Prince Edward joined Mayor Steve Ferguson, Invitational Youth Games Chairman Brian Etherington, Picton OPP Detachment Commander John Hatch, Fire Chief Scott Manlow, Deputy Chief Carl Bowker from Hastings-Quinte Paramedic Services, numerous local media, and about forty students and teachers from PECI in a flag raising ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics in Canada.

"As many of you know, Luke Flynn is a Special Olympian who lives here in Picton, and he has a special place in our hearts here at the PEC OPP Detachment,"  said Commander John Hatch. "His work at our office, cleaning the cruisers three days a week, allows me brag to anyone who will listen to me that we have the “cleanest OPP Fleet in the Province.'”

While the County doesn’t have an athlete competing in this year’s inaugural Special Olympics Ontario Invitational Youth Games in May in Toronto, “we do have some fantastic local special athletes like Luke here with us, celebrating and cheering on fellow athletes across the province,” said John Hatch, OPP Detachment Commander.

Hatch was also pleased to welcome County residents Brian and Kirsteen Etherington, who, with their family have many decades of involvement and have raised millions of dollars for Special Olympics. “He is the chairman of the Ontario Invitational Youth Games this summer and I’m very proud to have him here today,” said Hatch, noting he was supposed to be attending the 50th anniversary ceremony in Toronto, but chose Prince Edward County, “so I owe the police chief of Toronto an apology,” he chuckled.

“50 years ago, if you had an intellectual disability, it wasn’t the same as looking at Luke today, who is running his own business, is a thriving member of his community, whose applauded for his work in the pool and his accomplishments,” said Etherington. “Today we have four million Luke Flynns in 171 countries. There are 26,000 Special Olympic athletes in Ontario and the partnership we have with the law enforcement torch run is one of the reasons.”

Etherington also applauded the work of Community Living and its Prince Edward County branch for its work.

“There was a man by the name of Harry Red Foster who founded Special Olympics Canada. He was a sportsman, he was a businessman, but prior to founding Special Olympics Canada he was the chairman of the fore-runner of Community Living. He created what was then called the Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded. Look how far we’ve come - now that’s a word we are trying to extinguish from our vocabulary. This week we have a ‘No Good Way’ campaign. There’s no good way to say the ‘R’ word. So we’ve come a long way but we thank our partners at Community Living for paving the way.”