Coach Michelle Riches cheers on her Special Olympics five-pin bowling team members.                                Mark Brett/Western News

Coach Michelle Riches cheers on her Special Olympics five-pin bowling team members. Mark Brett/Western News

Special feeling helping Special Olympians

“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

That’s the oath introduced in the inaugural Special Olympics international games in Chicago in 1968.

Keeping that promise and helping others to do the same has become a family affair for three Penticton sisters.

For 27 years Fae Hodgins, now the five-pin bowling head coach for Special Olympics BC Penticton, has worked with special needs athletes including her younger sister Jeri-Lee Hodgins.

Four years ago their other sister, Michelle Riches, decided to get on board upon her return to Penticton. After volunteering for a couple of years, she too decided to get her coaching certification and now works with athletes in bowling, bocce and powerlifting.

And she couldn’t be happier.

“It’s the most amazing experience in the world,” she said during a break in the Tuesday afternoon bowling competition at Roll N Stones Fun Centre, a weekly event for nearly 40 athletes. “You cannot have a bad day. I mean if you’ve had a bad day and you come to be with the athletes they put a smile on your face, you just can’t help it.

“Watching them, the interaction among themselves, the camaraderie, cheering each other on and they get to know you, they get to love you, you get so many hugs, it just feels so good when you leave.”

Her sister Fae agreed: “What I get out of this is a lot of joy and I come in here and they light you up, you walk out of here with a happy face, in spite of what else is happening you feel really good.”

There are a variety of seasonal sporting options for athletes locally in addition to five and 10-pin bowling, including; snowshoeing, cross country skiing, softball, basketball and swimming.

While she helps the athletes with their skills, conducts stretching exercises and deals with organizational matters, much of Riches work is cheering on her charges who range in age from eight to 70.

“My hands are sore from clapping and I have no voice at the end of the day,” said Riches, adding about watching her sister compete: “It warms my heart to see Jeri-Lee’s face light up with excitement when she does well and while cheering on her teammates.

“But we also let the athletes know that it’s okay if you don’t win every time, just have a good time and we just have a ball.”

When asked about her most memorable moment in the time she has worked with Special Olympics, Riches was hard pressed to come up with just one.

“I can honestly say that every day I am involved with the athletes has been memorable,” she said.

The one thing that did stand out in her mind was the trip to the Special Olympics 2017 Summer Games in Kamloops in July with a Kelowna bowling team.

“That was a great experience, it was with a whole different group of athletes seeing them enjoy the experience was amazing. My sisters were also there with the SOBC Penticton team and it was wonderful to experience it with them. The opening and closing ceremonies where I saw all of the athletes in one place gave me chills and my heart was bursting with waves of love and enthusiasm.”

SOBC Penticton is currently looking to expand its program schedule and needs more volunteers to enjoy what Riches describes as a “life-changing experience.”

For more information about opportunities with SOBC Penticton go to: specialolympics.bc.ca/local/sobc-penticton.

 

Special Olympian Jeri-Lee Hodgins delivers a shot under the watchful eyes of her coaches and sisters, Fae Hodgins (left) and Michelle Riches at Sun Country Lanes during this week’s five-pin bowling competition.                                Mark Brett/Western News                                Special Olympian Jeri-Lee Hodgins delivers a shot under the watchful eyes of her coaches and sisters, Fae Hodgins (left) and Michelle Riches at Roll N Stones Fun Centre during this week’s five-pin bowling competition. Mark Brett/Western News

Special Olympian Jeri-Lee Hodgins delivers a shot under the watchful eyes of her coaches and sisters, Fae Hodgins (left) and Michelle Riches at Sun Country Lanes during this week’s five-pin bowling competition. Mark Brett/Western News Special Olympian Jeri-Lee Hodgins delivers a shot under the watchful eyes of her coaches and sisters, Fae Hodgins (left) and Michelle Riches at Roll N Stones Fun Centre during this week’s five-pin bowling competition. Mark Brett/Western News

Just Posted

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Geordie Fife exits the dunk tank during 2017’s Discovery House Father’s Day festivities at Skaha Lake Park. The fundraiser helps raise awareness of the work done at the house and break down the stigma associated with addiction. (Western News File)
Discovery House Father’s Day fundraiser goes digital

The addiction recovery program will be rolling out videos ahead of the fundraiser

The proposed design of the five-storey building on Front Street. (City of Penticton)
Five-storey building proposed for Penticton’s Front Street

It will be the second time the proposal will head to council

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from St. Eugene’s residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

RCMP thanked the public for assistance in finding Benjamin Archie, last seen in Princeton. (RCMP)
Missing Chilliwack man found safe and sound

The 80-year-old had walked away from his home in Chilliwack

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

(Heather Lueck image)
Crash north of Enderby knocks out power, slows Highway 97A traffic

A witness captured footage of a medical helicopter landing at the scene

Most Read