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Journey to the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Calgary begins

Lighting the flame of hope in Lethbridge, and setting the pace for the law enforcement torch run final leg, Calgary Special Olympics track and field athlete and torch bearer David Hall is taking the honour in stride.

“Running across the province helps with the Special Olympics, so it’s a great opportunity,” Hall said. “Being an athlete myself, it’s kind of important for everyone to be all included.”

Known as the guardians of the flame, 14 law enforcement officers from coast to coast, including the Yukon, joined Hall on his journey to carry the flame of hope through 12 communities.

The route includes Coaldale, Taber, Brooks and Medicine Hat on Day 1, finishing off with the Medicine Hat polar plunge. Day 2 heads to Calgary, beginning with the polar plunge, before heading off to Canmore for its polar plunge and dog sled snowy owl torch ride, finishing off at Banff for the night. Day 3 sees the torch inspire the streets of Red Deer and its polar plunge. Day 4 heads to Camrose for its run, ending off in Edmonton. The final day sees the torch begin in Airdrie, heading back down to Calgary for the Chinook Mall run and the Saddledome run, before arriving at 8 p.m. at the opening ceremonies at Nutrien Centre, where the cauldron will be lit to mark the official beginning of the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games.

“Special Olympics as grown so immensely over the last 20 years,” said Matthew Burton, the organizer of the final leg torch run. “In 1987, we brought the law enforcement torch run program into Canada, and now we’re seeing over 2,000 officers from Canada who are taking part.”

For Braylon Hyggen, a constable with the Lethbridge Police Service, it’s all to spread the message of inclusion.

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“With the challenges they’ve had, they overcome. And the sports and the comradery with this organization brings them out of their shell and gives them something to do and something to prove themselves and to show their abilities.”

Hall’s mom, Carol, says inclusive sport has really helped her son.

“I remember pretty vividly when he was about six, playing soccer with ‘regular’ kids and it just didn’t work out at all,” she recalled. “And we quickly switched over to Special, where everybody’s included and everybody can take part and be themselves and be celebrated.”

The opening ceremonies are Tuesday evening.

Lethbridge will be represented by figure skater, Moriah Van’t Land, competing on the national stage for the first time.

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