Stephen Graham was born a premature baby. As a toddler, he showed noticeable communication impediments, including a speech delay. He had a difficult time in his early years of school— he knew he was different and didn’t feel comfortable. He was often teased.
In February 1997 he watched his cousin Joe compete in speed skating at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Toronto, Ontario. “What an experience that was – the entire atmosphere was electric. The support, the encouragement, the friendship shown by everybody – were all something we wanted Stephen to be a part of,” says his mother Elaine.
Flash forward to 2002 and Stephen was the first member of the Special Olympics speed skating club in Orillia, where he trained diligently and qualified to compete at the Barrie regionals in 2003. In 2009, he won two gold and one silver medal at the Idaho World Winter Games! This feat earned him the Special Olympics Ontario Male Athlete of the Year title and he had the honor of carrying the Olympic Torch through Gravenhurst, Ontario at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. It was a life-changing experience for Stephen.
“It’s not the 30 seconds on the ice that gets you a medal. It’s what it takes to get you there” says Elaine. The time and support of dedicated coaches, the hours of practice, the venues and competitions where lifelong memories are made… and even just a sturdy pair of skates— this is all made possible by incredible donors and supporters like you.
Thomas Carrique, Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police has formed an unbreakable bond with Stephen over the years. “Stephen’s enthusiasm, determination and his commitment to achieving his personal best is an inspiration that motivates those who have the privilege to get to know him to do better and be better,” states Commissioner Carrique. Commissioner Carrique drafted Stephen to kick off the Virtual Guardians Run and encourages everyone, law enforcement and public, to do the same.
Elaine says, “Thank you for helping my son achieve his full potential. Thank you for giving Stephen the confidence to succeed. Thank you for the many unforgettable moments and experiences that he can now cherish forever. Where would he be without your help?”
You are the heroes that help push Stephen and thousands of other athletes to achieve their dreams. And this October, you once again have a chance to become someone’s hero.
The OPP Guardians Half Marathon/5km has gone virtual, enabling everyone from across the Province and beyond to participate in the Run on or before October 25th. Registration is only $25 and includes a free Torch Run Dry-Fit T-Shirt. New this year: we are challenging everyone to Draft an Athlete for $250.