It began in Victoria on a weekend in the summer of 1971. And every year since, the annual sports festival Operation Trackshoes has welcomed people with developmental disabilities from across the province to compete, in a weekend of fun.

The event offers a wide range of sporting activities for all ages and levels of ability. But the key component of the weekend-long sports festival is building relationships between people living with and without developmental disabilities.

Participants come from all over B.C., and counsellors are matched with competitors to provide support and friendship throughout the weekend.

Remarkably, ever since that first weekend nearly 50 years ago, the entire event has remained 100 per cent volunteer-run.

Public Relations Coordinator Sandra Otway says that Operation Trackshoes “started out with about 30 athletes in 1971, and this year we have 425 competitors… and we have about 450 volunteers.”

‘It’s a lot like a summer-camp atmosphere because we do things where people are paired together with competitors and volunteers, to participate in events together, to feel like a buddy system,” Otway said.

Randy Hein is the announcer for the event, calling out various activities and participants names, and says he always looks forward to volunteering for Operation Trackshoes.

“We live in a world that really divides people away from one another,” says Hein. “And this is an event where we all just come together.”

“For everyone that’s involved, everyone that’s volunteering, everyone that’s participating in this event, joy is an excellent word to define, to describe, to really understand what is happening here.”

While Operation Trackshoes has now wrapped up for this year, organizers are always looking ahead and happy to welcome more volunteers to help out next year.

Click here for more information on how to help out next year.

Veronica Cooper