Volunteer Spotlight: Christine Holowich

Hi, my name is Christine Holowich and I am an Educational Assistant at College Miles Macdonell Collegiate. I have been a coach with Special Olympics for the past five years. I started the School Program at College Miles Macdonell Collegiate in 2016-2017 school year, then took on two more coaching positions as assistant coach with Team Blizzard (Snowshoe) and Team Razorbacks (Basketball).  

My first experience with Special Olympics was about 15 years ago when I worked in a Junior High School, and we took the students to an In-The-Schools (which is what it was called back then) competition at Grant Park High School. I was totally amazed at how well the whole event was orchestrated. I was impressed with how many volunteers, athletes and coaches were involved in such a program. I was relocated to other schools and I really hoped that these other schools would be part of Special Olympics or even would want to start a School Program. Sadly, it did not happen.   

When I moved to College Miles Macdonell Collegiate, I was talking with Coach Joanne Zahaiko and she suggested to begin an In-The-Schools program. Of course, I jumped on that idea! With her help, we were able to get it up and running just in time for the snowshoe competition at West Kildonan Collegiate. But of course, me being me, it just could not end there. I needed to play a bigger part in Special Olympics. Coach Joanne suggested I come out and see what it is all about at her snowshoe practice. So, I did exactly that. It was the athletes and the coaches that really won me over. They were so welcoming and willing to explain how the program works to me.  I realized I needed to join that team as well. Unfortunately, with the season ending I did not know what I was going to do, until I was invited to come check out basketball. Which was good because I really knew nothing about basketball, but I needed to instruct the students all about it. The athletes and coaches really took the time to teach me all I needed to know and some.   There were multiple people that encouraged me to join Special Olympics. Of them Coach Joanne stands out because she helped me get the In-The-Schools program started and taught me all I needed to know.   

The athletes were also a huge motivator, in that they taught me how to never give up no matter what.           

As you can tell, my experiences with Special Olympics have been amazing so far. I really cannot see myself stopping anytime soon. Special Olympics has really helped this school year with the School Program. Having Alexis leading us in online workouts and setting up virtual competitions has really helped keep the students active.     

I have two most memorable experiences with Special Olympics. My first is when I was able to take the team from College Miles Macdonell for our first snowshoe competition. Being out on the field with all these other schools and seeing how excited our students were to be able to run against other students from different schools was amazing. They were on the sidelines encouraging each other to do their best. When we went to future competitions, they would see these same athletes and be just like long lost friends.   

My next most memorable experience was February 2020 when I received the opportunity to be an assistant coach for the Provincial snowshoe team that was headed to Thunder Bay for the Special Olympics Canada National Winter Games. From the time I found out I was accepted as an assistant coach; I was so excited! Being able to share all the tears and all the joys with the athletes and the fellow coaches is something that will always stay with me.   If anyone is looking for somewhere to volunteer, I really have to say you need to check out Special Olympics. Between the friendships you will make, the experience you will get, and the encouragement you will receive, it truly is an amazing experience!  

Written & submitted by: Christine Holowich, Special Olympics Manitoba Coach

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