Summerside - Shoppers flock to the Community Room in Summerside’s Atlantic Superstore to fill their plates – and stomachs – with warm and fluffy buttery pancakes on Saturday morning.
Athlete Paul Phillips is among the crowd at the annual Pancake Breakfast with Santa, all in support of the Special Olympians from Prince County.
Phillips has Down syndrome, but this label does not overshadow his life and dampen his spirit thanks to fundraising initiatives like this one.
“People say I inspire them and that makes me feel happy,” said Phillips. “And I feel like I can do anything with the support of my family and friends,” he added, with a twinkle in his eyes.
Paul has participated in athletics, floor hockey, five-pin cowling, 10-Pin bowling, and curling. He represented P.E.I. in the National Winter Games in Quebec City with curling in 2008.
Wayne Phillips, Prince County Special Olympics Family and Friends treasurer, said his son, Paul, keeps him “young.”
“Paul has been an athlete with Special Olympics P.E.I. for 29 years. We’re proud of our son for what he’s accomplished. He works full-time, and he’s going to be in the 10-pin nationals next spring. He keeps his parents busy, but we appreciate it. And we feel young with all the running around,” he said.
Special Olympics P.E.I. inducted Paul into the Hall of Fame in 2012, one of the inaugural three, along with Gino Reda, and Dion Phaneuf. He was also recognized for his work in the community, and awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in 2012.
“Paul has more medals in the house, trophies, and t-shirts than we can count over the years,” said his father. “He’s also been a co-emcee for the Special Olympics Festival, one of the major fundraising initiatives, for 19 years.”
In this role, Paul has a long-standing friendship with Co-Emcee Gino Reda, the host of TSNs That's Hockey.
Reda serves as a role model and inspiration to many athletes.
“Last year they raised $180,000 for the Special Olympics,” said Phillips. “And Paul gets up at this event in front of more than 400 people to talk, so that’s quite a big thing.”
He added, “We have four to five major fundraisers a year, and that’s to help send our coaches, athletes and volunteers to national, provincial, winter and summer games.”
Fran Gillis, a volunteer coach, said there’s close to 100 athletes from the Prince County area that span in age from around nine to 70.
She said, “My main goal is for everyone to have fun and be active, and I encourage us to have fun every time we get together. Having people join the Special Olympics really builds confidence, and they learn a lot of skills they can take with them.”
Funds raised from the Special Olympics all-you-can-eat Pancake Breakfast with Santa go to 2018 Special Olympics National Summer Games athletes, coaches and volunteers from Prince County.
The 10-Pin Bowling Championships are to be held in Summerside and Tyne Valley from May 14 to 20, 2018. Four athletes and one coach will represent P.E.I.
The breakfast fundraiser included coffee, tea, juice and two slices of ham at $5 for adults and $3 for children (six and under) and went from 8 to 11 a.m.
More information is available at: www.specialolympics.ca/pei