Nancy Bailey is on a mission: to turn Niagara-on-the-Lake into a Special Olympics community.
Across the province, nationally and internationally, such communities offer support to children and adults with intellectual disabilities by providing year-round opportunities and accessibility to sports.
Although it operates on a world-wide playing field, Special Olympics is considered a grass-roots organization.
Bailey is a real estate broker and advisor with Engel & Volkers, an international company which has been supporting Special Olympics as its cause since 2015. She said she decided as soon as she got her new Mary Street office up and running, she wanted to get involved by introducing the organization in NOTL, which is in the south central district of the Ontario chapter.
Each district works at bringing communities under its umbrella, which then begin raising funds, awareness of the organization and its goals, and developing programs for local athletes.
“We want to find out what is needed in this community,” said Bailey, “and to become a voice for those with disabilities. I think we may be surprised by what we discover. We know there is need in town for the support we can provide.”
That could mean ensuring athletes have the equipment and uniforms they need, the training to help them progress in their sport, and the funds to travel to competitions, she said.
It could also include developing coaches and volunteers to support the athletes — but first, to help gauge what is needed locally and guide how to proceed, Bailey is hosting an open house, inviting potential athletes, coaches and those who would like to volunteer.
Pratima Bhatt, one of the district developers for Special Olympics Ontario, says its mandate is to help athletes in their own communities by developing local programs and raising funds to assist with their training.
“We have programs in many small towns across Ontario,” she said. “But I get requests sometimes for assistance and I have to say we don’t have a program there. It’s important to have them in every community.”
Parents don’t always know where to look for help or what to ask for, and accept whatever is available in their community, she said. If she hears from even one parent who is looking for something more for a disabled child or adult, she can work with them, but it’s much easier if she has local partners.
“Even if there are one or two families we can help, I would feel we’ve done something, and the program will grow,” said Bhatt.
“To start a program like this in NOTL, a small community, we look for partners, and now we’ve found one.”
Bailey will be holding a meet and greet at her office at 376 Mary Street June 25, 6 to 8 p.m.
In the meantime, anyone interested in becoming involved or looking for more information can call the office at 905-468-4700 or reach Bailey at 905-371-4234.