Local Athlete Ambassadors

Amy Cizmar
Amy Cizmar
Floor Hockey

After a career in a city ice hockey league, Amy switched to Special Olympics Thunder Bay floor hockey, where she is outstanding player. She is also a bowler and was a crew member on the Special Olympics dragon boat team. However, despite her versatility, Amy found her true calling as an alpine skier. In the 2011 Special Olympics Provincial Winter Games, on the frozen slopes of Mount Baldy, Amy won two gold and one bronze medal.

Beyond her sports, Amy keeps busy juggling two jobs, camping and travelling.

Amy believes Special Olympics has truly changed here life. “Meeting new people changed me,” she says. “If people want to try out Special Olympics, they should go out and do it. It’s pretty fun.”

Amy is looking forward to accepting new challenges as an Athlete Ambassador.

Carson Smith
Carson Smith
Alpine Skiing

“I’m just an average teen going to high school,” claims Carson Smith.

Behind that self-effacing veneer, however, is so much more than that. Carson had an idea to bring positive change to the world. “I thought we could create a system where students who were bullied in school would feel safer and more open to talk to each other.”

Carson’s idea took him all the way to a leadership conference in Ecuador, where he represented Canada as a Youth Ambassador. He later outlined his plan to MPs, Senators and other community leaders in Ottawa.

Carson first heard about Special Olympics from his best friend Joey Marostica. He now plays basketball, floor hockey and is a member of the ski team.

What is Carson’s goal as an Athlete Ambassador? “My ambition is to gain leadership skills. I want to become a better speaker for Special Olympics.”

Claire Kachur
Claire Kachur
Speed Skating

Soft-spoken Claire Kachur lets her actions speak for her. She began her sports career in the Northwood Hockey League. Hockey was in her genes. Her granfather Eddie formerly played for the Chicago Blackhawks. Since joining Special Olympics three years ago, Claire has blossomed into a well-rounded athlete competing in basketball, athletics, softball, bowling, bocce and speed skating. In fact, Claire will compete in speed skating at the 2019 Special Olympics Ontario Winter Games in Sault Ste. Marie. At stake is a potential berth in the 2020 National Games in Thunder Bay.

Claire is also a member of Dreamers cheerleading squad.

Besides sports, Claire says, “ I enjoy meeting new friends and seeing new things. I like music, dancing, going to concerts, hanging out with my brother Johnny and going to school at St. Ignatius.”

Duncan Boyd
Duncan Boyd
Floor Hockey

Like most Special Olympic athletes, Duncan really enjoys meeting new people through his sport. He recommends Special Olympics to others because “it makes you more active, gives you more things to do and helps you make more friends.”

Duncan joined Special Olympics about 15 years ago, when he was still in grade school. He participates in swimming, baseball and floor hockey. The highlight of his athletic career so far was a trip to Provincial Games in Guelph, where he competed as a swimmer.

When not competing himself, Duncan is a loyal fan of local sports teams, especially Lakehead Thunderwolves hockey and Bordercats baseball.

His goal is “to qualify for National Games in one of my sports.”

Duncan is employed in the maintenance department with GRIDLINK utility infrastructure contractor.

Edwin McCauley
Edwin McCauley
Curling, Bowling

Edwin was introduced to Special Olympics Thunder Bay by his close friend and fellow ambassador Kyler Lecompte. Edwin his since become a multi-sport athlete who excels at soccer, basketball, curling and ten-pin bowling.

Special Olympics has brought positive changes to Edwin’s life.

“I like Special Olympics because I get to interact with my friends and I’ve gained a lot because before that I spent a lot of time playing video games and watching TV. I get out a lot more now!”

After completing high school Edwin studied in the Ontario Public Service program at Confederation College and hopes to eventually find employment in his field.

Edwin is sure to be a tremendous asset to the Athlete Ambassador program for the 2020 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Thunder Bay.

Gabby Hannusch
Gabrielle Hannusch
Snowshoeing, Floor Hockey

Gabby has firmly established herself as a versatile multi-sport athlete who excels in softball, athletics, snowshoeing and floor hockey. She dreams of competing some day at the World Games in one of her sports. Her first step towards that goal may be the 2019 Special Olympics Provincial Games in Sault Ste. Marie, where she will compete in snowshoeing events alongside her twin sister Roberta.

Gabby loves the inclusive nature of Special Olympics. She says, “No one treats you differently. No one tells you that you are different. You’re not judged by how you are.”

Gabby enjoys her part time job at Unveiled Bridal Boutique and has volunteered at Pioneer Ridge for the past six years.

How is Gabby different from Roberta? “I’m more shy than her. But I’m better at using technology. I can figure out things no one else in my family can.”

Ian Bryan
Ian Bryan
Bowling, Floor Hockey

If fishing were a Special Olympics sport, Ian Bryan might be world champion. He’s one of the most expert outdoorsmen you will ever meet. In fact, he’d love to host his own fishing show someday.

Ian joined Special Olympics in high school. “I heard about it from my Mom,” he recalls. “It became a subject of conversation in the Community Living class. A few of us met with coach Gary Renner and got involved from there.”

Ian excelled at basketball before a broken foot sidelined that career. Today he plays softball, bowls and stars as a floor hockey goaltender.

When asked if he looks up to someone special in his life, Ian replies, “My brother Sean for sure! And close friends like Joey Marostica.”

Special Olympics helped Ian develop a great philosophy on life. “If you want other people to be better, help them out. Treat everyone with respect and honesty.”

Joey Marostica
Joey Marostica
Floor Hockey

Anyone who visits Fort William Historical Park will recognize Joey Marostica. There he transforms into Joseph, the farmhand, a role he performs with consummate skill. “I feed and water the animals,” he explains. “ I tell people about the history of the farm and re-enact some battles.”

Joey has been competing with Special Olympics Thunder Bay for seven years, and is an integral part of the floor hockey and basketball teams.

“I’ve met a lot of people at Special Olympics and they’ve become close friends. It also keeps me active. I used to have a sore back, but I don’t have it anymore. Plus we get to go on amazing trips!”

Joey sees Athlete Ambassadors as a new adventure and can’t wait to see what’s going to happen.

“Whatever you guys need, I’ll be there!”

Jordan Pretchuck
Jordan Pretchuck
Curling

Curling is Jordan Pretchuck’s passion.

“I always liked to watch curling on TV,” he says. “Then I saw a notice about Special Olympics curling in The Key and decided to give it a try.”

That was in 2004. Jordan picked up the nuances of the game quickly and became a vital component of Thunder Bay’s gold medal curling team in the 2011 Special Olympics Provincial Winter Games. He also competed with them in the 2012 National Winter Games in St. Albert, Alberta.

Jordan works in mail filing at City Hall and also scans documents at the Thunder Bay Archives. He fills his spare time cycling and cheering on the Border Cats and Lakehead Thunderwolves. He aspires to become a coach in the future.

Joseph Navratil
Joseph Navratil
Floor Hockey

Joseph Navratil is an active multi-sport athlete who excels at basketball, floor hockey and soccer. “I started out trying to volunteer when I was 19,” he relates. “I realized I could actually take part in the sports and it took off from there. I love to compete and work hard. Special Olympics also gets me out of the house and gives me the opportunity to be around other people. You get to forget about the day-to-day problems and just get out and have a good time.”

Outside Special Olympics, Joseph works part time at the tissue bank and at Maltese Grocery. A recent Lakehead University graduate, Joseph hopes to obtain full time employment at the tissue bank and continue competing with Special Olympics for a long time, picking up other sports along the way.

Karli Doust
Karli Doust
Figure Skating

Karli is a busy young lady. Besides holding a multi-faceted job as Facilities Assistant at the Canada Games Complex, she practices three times a week with the Thunder Bay Figure Skating Club and competes for Special Olympics Thunder Bay. In 2017 she won a gold medal at the provincial qualifier in Waterloo.

Karli began skating at the age of four. She took a hiatus at 16, but jumped at the chance to get back on the blades and represent Special Olympics Thunder Bay.

“ I like being around other skaters and going away to compete. I just love skating. It’s in my blood.”

Her goal is to keep practicing and working on her jumps. “I think you can do whatever you want if you put your heart into it,” she says.

She feels the 2020 National Winter Games offer a great opportunity for athletes to shine. “If everybody does their best and has fun, they’ll make Thunder Bay proud.”

Kyler Lecompte
Kyler Lecompte
Bowling, Floor Hockey, Curling

Kyler joined Special Olympics Thunder Bay at the age of 14 on a friend’s recommendation. Since then, he’s become skilled at bowling, floor hockey, soccer, softball, basketball and curling. Now he’s accepted a new challenge as an Athlete Ambassador for the 2020 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games.

“Special Olympics has changed me a lot over the years,” he relates. ”It’s given me a lot more confidence.”

His favorite highlight? ”Going away on buses and planes to competitions.”

After graduating from high school, Kyler enrolled in the CICE program with a 3.75 first year at Confederation College. His studies included Health, Machinery, Modern History, Latin American History and Recreation Therapy. Through the college, he also volunteers at a Habitat for Humanity build site.

Kyler is an avid outdoorsman who loves boating, cycling, camping and hiking.

Megan Peters
Megan Peters
Basketball

Megan Peters is a sports fan. When she’s not playing a sport with her friends or working at Wequedong Lodge, she loves watching hockey, soccer or basketball on television.

Megan took up basketball in high school, switching to Special Olympics four years ago. She doesn’t mind competing on the same court with often much taller boys. “I’ve learned to manage,” she says with a grin, “I get along with them.”

She feels Thunder Bay was a good choice to host the Special Olympics Canada 2020 Winter Games. “I think it will be really fun for everybody. Other athletes will come and learn all about our city.”

Megan’s coaches are her sports heroes. ”I really look up to my coaches,” she says. ”They make us work hard and make sure we all get along. They are great role models for us.”

Nicole Bedard
Nicole Bedard
Bowling

Five-pin bowler Nicole came within an eyelash of fulfilling her dream at the 2018 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in Prince Edward Island. She fell just 50 pins short of qualifying for World Games. Far from being discouraged, however, Nicole is pursuing her goal with even more energy.

Nicole joined Special Olympics softball while growing up in Barrie, Ont. After moving to Thunder Bay, she took up soccer and five-pin bowling.

Nicole believes Athlete Ambassadors will play an important role in filling the knowledge gap that influences the public’s perception of her fellow athletes. “We’ll help people know more about Special Olympic athletes,” she explains. “A lot of people still don’t really know us.”

Nicole has a very active life outside Special Olympics. She loves to read and enjoys working at the Victoria Inn.

Robert Whitehurst
Robert Whitehurst
Snowshoeing

Soft-spoken Robert Whitehurst has truly made his mark since joining Special Olympics with his brother Shawn a decade ago. A highly versatile athlete, he has competed at Provincial Games in swimming, track and field and snowshoeing and has amassed an impressive collection of medals along the way.

Robert is enthusiastic about the upcoming Special Olympics Canada 2020 Winter Games in Thunder Bay and his role as an Athlete Ambassador. “I’m looking forward to supporting all the athletes and everyone who will be coming to Thunder Bay,” he says.

Robert has a busy life outside of Special Olympics. He is employed at Kal Tire, where he works in shipping and receiving and helps manage inventory.

Besides performing as an Athlete Ambassador, Robert’s goals for the future are straightforward. “I want to beat Shawn in snowshoeing and make it to National Games!”

Roberta Hannusch
Roberta Hannusch
Snowshoeing, Floor Hockey

Berta and her twin sister Gabrielle played girls’ softball in a city league, but decided to try Special Olympics softball on their parents’ recommendation. Since then, Berta has joined snowshoeing, athletics and floor hockey. The highlight of Berta’s Special Olympics career has been a trip to the 2016 National Winter Games in Corner Brook NL, where she won gold and silver medals in snowshoeing.

Beyond sports, Roberta gives back to her community. She has volunteered with senior citizens at St. Joseph’s Heritage for the past six years and recently began a part time job at Masala Grill.

When asked if she’d recommend Special Olympics to others, Berta answers unequivocally, “I’d say go for it! It’s a great opportunity to meet new people, learn new skills and be active.”

Berta is thrilled to have National Winter Games in her hometown. “People will see who we are as a city and maybe come back some day. Also, I might be in them!”

Shawn Whitehurst
Shawn Whitehurst
Snowshoeing

Like his twin brother Robert, Shawn Whitehurst is an accomplished all-round athlete, who has competed at Provincial Games in showshoeing, track and filed, swimming and soccer. How is Shawn different from his brother? “He’s a lot faster than me in swimming,” he relates. “But I beat him in snowshoeing!”

When asked who he looks up to the most, Shawn replirs, “My brother, my team, and all the athletes!”

Shawn’s favorite part of Special Olympics is getting to know new people and welcoming them to the sport. His goal as an Athlete Ambassador is to help the city host a successful National Winter Games. Shawn’s cheerful, outgoing personality will suit him perfectly to this role.

When he’s not training or competing in his various sports, Shawn works as a tire technician at Halfway Motors Nissan.

Thomas Boyes
Thomas Boyes
Floor Hockey, Bowling, Snowshoeing

Thomas is a veteran athlete who joined Special Olympics Thunder Bay as a young boy. Nowadays, he competes in swimming, floor hockey, bowling and snowshoeing. The highlight of Thomas’ career came in 2012, when he represented Ontario as a snowshoe competitor at the National Winter Games.

When not competing or attending sporting events in the community, Thomas works as a Walmart greeter, which perfectly suits his friendly, outgoing personality.

Thomas truly made his mark when he delivered a stirring speech on behalf of his fellow athletes before a packed Thunder Bay Community Auditorium at the closing ceremonies of the 2011 Special Olympics Provincial Winter Games. Thomas’ speaking skills will be a great asset for the Athlete Ambassador program.

“Special Olympics changes your life,’ says Thomas. ”It allows you to play a sport, make new friends and try new things.”

Yvette DeGagne
Yvette Degagne
Bowling

Yvette Degagne is among Special Olympics Thunder Bay’s most decorated athletes. Specializing in track and field for over twenty years, Yvette has competed in Provincial Games in Windsor, Niagara Falls, Toronto and Peel, and National Games in London and Antigonish N.S., bringing home medals every time.

Yvette has worked at Thunder Bay International Airport for 17 years. In her spare time she loves movies and visits iCAN! Social Network, where she enjoys inclusive activities and fellowship.

What does Yvette like most about Special Olympics? “I love meeting people, competing, going away to different places … all of it!”

Yvette’s outgoing personality and positive outlook make her a perfect fit for the Athlete Ambassador program.

Tyler Rissanen
Tyler Rissanen
Snowshoeing, Floor Hockey

A relative newcomer to Special Olympics, Tyler Rissanen represents a new
generation of athletes who discovered sport through the Have A Go school program.
He has quickly blossomed into a multi-sport athlete who participates in
snowshoeing, golf, floor hockey and softball.
Tyler really enjoys the social aspect of Special Olympics and loves meeting new
friends through his sports. He also appreciates its inclusive philosophy.
“Special Olympics lets me be myself,” he says.
Beyond Special Olympics, Tyler is an enthusiastic outdoorsman who loves camping
and fishing. He also enjoys watching sports, especially hockey.
Tyler recognizes the importance of his role as an athlete ambassador. “I’d like to
promote Special Olympics in our city for all ages and all sports,” he explains. “ It’s
important for Thunder Bay to host the National Games because they will showcase
all the athletes from across the country and bring lots of excitement to the city.”