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Stronger Than Ever: The Virtual Community That Became Team Burlington

Special Olympics Burlington athletes at the socially-distanced Torch Run

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and halted Team Burlington’s daily operations, coach Sue Cannon noticed that her athletes were becoming bored as a result of their lost sports programming. Shortly after, Sue found herself reading the Special Olympics Ontario newsletter and came across Walk the World with Me. “I immediately thought of our athletes and got in touch with coach Mary Ann Connolly and suggested that for accountability and keeping in touch, why not take some of the bocce players and coaches we were in contact with over Facebook and create a team,” she said.

Special Olympics Burlington athlete Laura Stremble walking at Royal Botanical Gardens

What started as a small group of members quickly ballooned through word of mouth and Sue began adding new athletes into the group as the days went on. Team Burlington not only became a Facebook page but a community where athletes and coaches could record their steps, log active minutes and most importantly, stay connected with each other.

Sue first got involved with Special Olympics after meeting a couple of athletes at a bowling alley where she previously worked. After being asked time and time again to coach these athletes and watch them bowl, Sue took the athletes up on their offer! Sue describes this experience as “one of the best decisions [she] ever made!”

Along the way, Sue has built incredible bonds and made some amazing friends. “Coaching is wonderful but, the athletes have taught me so much more – patience, unconditional acceptance, determination and resilience.” Despite the pandemic, Sue has continued to make sure her athletes are well-equipped to continue being active from their homes.

Special Olympics Burlington athlete Matt walks with his daughter

Cultivating a virtual community has led to some amazing benefits for Team Burlington. “We stay active and we stay in touch, so it helps with the mental and physical well-being of both athletes and coaches.”

Sue has even reconnected with athletes that she hadn’t heard from due to coaching and participation in different sports as well as been introduced to new athletes and coaches! Overall, Walk the World with Me has done wonders in keeping Team Burlington connected to one another.

Once Walk the World with Me concludes, Sue is planning on setting a team goal to walk somewhere new. Way to go Team Burlington!

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