Special Olympics Cobequid holds public bocce and barbeque day

Ryan Cooke, Truro Daily News
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TRURO – Special Olympics Cobequid was on full display Saturday afternoon, as they hosted a barbeque and bocce game in Victoria Park.

The event, which drew in more than 50 people, featured 10 of Cobequid’s bocce players, who won gold and silver medals at the Special Olympics Interprovincial Games earlier this year.

Showcasing their talent to the public was a way to show the community what the group is all about, said bocce coach and Special Olympics coordinator Heidi Heukshorst.

“I think this is a great thing, because a lot of people have preconceived notions about Special Olympics and this is a great way to break that mold.”

Many of the athletes carry fulltime jobs, while others are married and have families, Heukshorst said. There are varying degrees of competition within Special Olympics, with bocce being one of the sports accessible to nearly all athletes.

The sport, one of the oldest known recreational activities, consists of two sides throwing bocce balls towards a pallino – a target ball, similar to the button in curling. It’s easy to learn and fits the constraints of just about everybody.

“We’ve had athletes in the past with walkers or in wheelchairs who took up bocce and really, really enjoyed it,” Heukshorst said. “It’s a great game for everybody.”

One of the athletes taking part on Saturday was Andrea Gibbs, daughter of Colchester Municipality councilor Lloyd Gibbs. Andrea was part of the medal winning bocce squad at the Interprovincial Games.

“It puts such a big smile on my face to see her out here today having fun and doing something she loves to do,” Gibbs said.

Andrea, now in her thirties, couldn’t wipe the smile off her face as she played the game with her teammates against a group of local politicians, including mayors and MLAs from the county.

“She’s my whole heart,” Gibbs said. “To see her get out of the car when I drop her off with the Special Olympics crew and run into the building because she can’t wait to be there, it’s an excellent feeling as a father.”

The local politicians picked up the swing of things quickly, edging out the Cobequid crew at the end of the match.

Getting exposure with the local brass is an important task for the group, Heukshorst said.

“Fundraising becomes harder and harder every year. These people have the ability to give us money. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to function. This is our way of thanking them, to show them where their money is going and how it’s helping us.”

As far as thanking them goes, the gratefulness may have spilled over onto the bocce court a little.

“I tried to tell them I let them win,” Heukshorst said. “But they did unfortunately get the upper hand. They caught up real well.”

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