Competitors race to the finish line Saturday at Operation Track Shoes.
This is the 49th year for the popular event, which welcomes participants with a developmental disability from all over the province.
“I’m in swimming, jumping, running and playing basketball and having a good time,” says competitor Richard McNaughton from North Delta.
“It’s just a really fun environment and I love the idea of a track event that doesn’t go on for just a day but the whole weekend,” adds Victoria competitor Lidia White.
“This is a very, very educational activity for many people with down syndrome,” explains Scott Negrach, whose sister is taking part. “They can show the world what they can really do.”
More than 400 competitors are taking part this weekend at the University of Victoria.
Organizers say there’s something for every age and ability level.
“We have fun events, recreational events and competitive events so there’s events for people of all ages, from six to 80, to participate in at various levels,” says Operation Trackshoes volunteer organizer Sandra Otway.
There are close to 500 volunteers making the event possible, and many have been with Operation Trackshoes for decades.
“I’ve been with Operation Trackshoes for 24 years,” says volunteer Crystal Sanderson. “I literally started as a teen in junior high, volunteering.”
For Sanderson and other long-time volunteers, it’s the feeling they get that keeps them coming back.
“It’s the energy and it’s contagious here,” a smiling Sanderson says. “You come for the weekend and you’re just engulfed in love and laughter. I get more hugs and high-five’s in one weekend than I do in an entire year.”
It’s also the reason Otway, who’s been involved for close to 30 years, wouldn’t miss this for the world.
“The energy of Operation Trackshoes and the enjoyment they’re having and the sportsmanship and just knowing they’re having a great time brings me back every year,” she says.