Photos by Chung Chow
They kept score, but nobody noticed.
Instead their focus was squarely on the participants as members of the Richmond Firefighters Association teamed with Richmond Special Olympics athletes in the inaugural basketball exhibition Sunday at the Richmond Olympic Oval.
In an inspiring and unforgettable display of sportsmanship and inclusion, the firefighters and Special Olympians lined up side by side in a series of games. Smiles and true sportsmanship triumphed.
The exhibition was organized by the firefighters, headed by Chris Vanderwel.
“The Richmond Firefighters Association’s idea to support the Richmond Special Olympics is (the result of) a collaborative conversation about investing in our community, athletics, and supporting athletes with intellectual disabilities,” explains Vanderwel. “Along with our Richmond Firefighters Charitable Society, our organization has supported Richmond Special Olympics in the past. This event is now another opportunity for us to engage with these inspirational athletes.”
The Richmond Firefighters Association has a long history of extending helping hands. Last weekend, members welcomed the opportunity to do so again.
In the first of what organizers hope becomes an annual event, more than 14 firefighters shared the spotlight with 28 local Special Olympics athletes.
Committed to serving its community, the Richmond Firefighters Association greatly values respect and inclusion for all. Its sponsorship of this event allowed free admission and participation for all Richmond Special Olympics athletes and their families.
“Our shared goal is to make this an inclusive, fun, family-oriented event,” says Vanderwel. “To make this event an annual success, we need to get the word out to the community to come and be a part of this amazing experience. We see this event growing by involving our community alongside the athletes and firefighters.”
Vanderwel says members of the Richmond Firefighters Association are also thankful for the support from the Richmond Olympic Oval to use the space.
“Without support of great facilities like this, our events cannot happen,” he says. “And future corporate involvement is important to provide opportunities and events for Richmond Special Olympics athletes.”