Stacey Kohler had one word to describe a surprise send-off party her friends at Semiahmoo House Society threw her this week.
“Breathtaking,” the South Surrey resident said ahead of her participation in next week’s Special Olympics World Summer Games, which will see 7,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities compete in 21 events. “This is so thoughtful and kind. I got tears to my eyes. They touched my heart, deeply, inside of me.”
The 24 Avenue facility was decorated with balloons and streamers in celebration of Kohler and Derek Tomm, both of whom will be representing the community – and the country – in Athens, Greece June 25 to July 4.
Kohler will be competing in the 800-metre, 1,500-m, 3,000-m and 4×400-m races, while Tomm – who was unable to make it to Thursday’s party – will be playing on Canada’s soccer team, which won gold at the Special Olympics in Shanghai, China four years ago.
Both athletes are active at Semiahmoo House – Kohler in the catering program and Tomm in the Employment Training and Support program – and their friends there joined staff June 16 to congratulate them on their achievements. Cake was served, and everyone took turns signing cards for the two.
“This is a celebration,” Kohler said, after a speech she gave to the crowd caused her to tear up. “Thank you for doing this for me.”
The event was also emotional for the society’s executive director, who said people with disabilities have to overcome many obstacles to reach such a level of accomplishment.
“They work their tails off for years to get to where Stacey and Derek are,” Paul Wheeler said, noting Kohler practises six times a week. “She never stops working.”
Wheeler said Kohler and Tomm’s dedication proves people with disabilities are capable of achieving great things.
“It’s for themselves but it’s also for their community, representing other people with… disabilities,” he said. “I’m just blown away by them.”