Big day for Special Olympics

Jason Simmonds
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Sports Celebrity Festival celebrates 25th anniversary

SUMMERSIDE – It was a big day for Special Olympians on P.E.I. Wednesday.

The Special Olympics Festival – the largest fundraiser for Special Olympics P.E.I. – celebrated its 25th anniversary with a luncheon in Summerside and a gala dinner and auction in Charlottetown.

“When I got the call to be a guest at this event, I was pretty honoured,” said Summerside native Ryan MacKinnon, a defenceman with the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. “The Special Olympics is a charitable organization, and they certainly dedicate a lot of hard work to make sure a lot of Islanders get to participate in sports. To help out an event like this I was truly blessed.”

The luncheon attracted a near capacity crowd at Credit Union Place. P.E.I. Special Olympics athlete Paul Phillips and Gino Reda of The Sports Network (TSN) once again displayed outstanding chemistry at the microphone.

Along with MacKinnon, Phillips and Reda were joined at the head table by celebrities Damon Allen, Canadian Football League Hall of Fame quarterback; Olympic gold-medallist curler Brad Gushue; Special Olympics P.E.I. female athlete of the year Rachael Loggie; Drew MacIntyre, the No. 1 goaltender with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League, and Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman and team captain Dion Phaneuf, a longtime supporter of the Sports Celebrities Festival.

“It’s a special dinner to me,” said Phaneuf. “I have a cousin who is in Special Olympics in Nova Scotia, and he actually is going to nationals (National Summer Games) in Vancouver (in July) too. . .

“When I got the call to be a guest at this event, I was pretty honoured. The Special Olympics is a charitable organization, and they certainly dedicate a lot of hard work to make sure a lot of Islanders get to participate in sports. To help out an event like this I was truly blessed.” Charlottetown Islanders defenceman Ryan MacKinnon

“This event, the full day with the lunch here and the dinner tonight is a great event. There is a lot of money raised and it’s because of you guys, so thanks a lot.”

Summerside native Gerard (Turk) Gallant was scheduled to attend, but was unable to as he was introduced as the new head coach of the Florida Panthers on Monday. Reda acknowledged Gallant’s appointment, which drew a loud round of applause.

Twitter.com/JpsportsJason

Organizations: The Sports Network, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Credit Union Place Canadian Football League Hall of Fame Toronto Marlies American Hockey League Toronto Maple Leafs Florida Panthers

Geographic location: Summerside, Charlottetown, Nova Scotia Vancouver

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