(HALIFAX, N.S.) – The Dalhousie Tigers, led by women’s track & field captain Rebecca Haworth, have joined forces with Special Olympics Nova Scotia to create the ‘Special Tigers Sports Program’ - a budding new community outreach initiative in Halifax.
It was last summer that Haworth first came up with the idea for the Special Tigers Sports Program, which gives children with developmental delays an opportunity to learn and play sports with Dalhousie’s varsity student-athletes.
Originally involved with the Special Olympics as a swim coach in high school, she had been looking for an opportunity to join the cause again.
Haworth says that after learning more about the Acadia S.M.I.L.E. (Sensory Motor Instructional Leadership Experience) program from friends, she started to think that a similar initiative might be possible at Dalhousie with the help of varsity student-athlete volunteers.
“Both the Dalhousie athletic department and the Special Olympics office were really helpful and supportive of the idea and it came together last fall,” she says.
The most recent of the program’s first four events took place March 2 at the Dalplex.
Twenty participants came out for this event and were partnered up with 20 student-athlete volunteers.
“In total, after the four events, we had over 100 student-athletes representing each of our Dalhousie teams participate with over 60 participants,” says Haworth. “The big hits sport-wise have been mini-stick hockey, soccer, basketball, volleyball and lots of jumping on the high jump mats!”
Haworth says she is most touched by the feedback she has gotten from the parents of participants in the program who often tell her the Special Tigers Sports Program has encouraged their child to try activities they might not have otherwise.
“It has been really inspiring to see participants improve both athletically and in their social skills throughout the program,” says Haworth, adding that she thinks this is also what makes Dalhousie volunteers keep coming back. “Seeing the smiles on the faces of the participants made all the work that went into the program worth it.”
From an academic, athletic and community involvement standpoint, 2012-13 has been a very impressive year for Haworth who was a gold medallist in the high jump at the AUS championship and was also this year’s winner of Atlantic University Sport’s James Bayer Memorial scholarship award.
A 4.06 GPA student in psychology, Rebecca is an Academic all-Canadian and was the 2013 recipient of both the AUS and CIS women's track and field student-athlete community service awards.
She also received the 2013 Dalhousie University Board of Governors' Award, which recognizes academic accomplishments and exceptional contributions to campus life and community service.
But, like any true athlete, her sights are set even higher for the upcoming year.
“Next year we're hoping to have more frequent events, more developmentally appropriate equipment for participants and have student-athlete volunteers participate in a Special Olympics coaching course,” she says.
For more information on the program, visit the Special Tigers Sports Day Facebook page.