However, having the title of ambassador welcoming more than 4,000 athletes, coaches and other volunteers to Calgary helps ease that disappointment because he considers it “a dream come true.”
Taylor recommends several places for people visiting Calgary for the first time.
“For me, I think probably the Calgary Tower and our mountains of course,” he said of the must-see sites. “And also see all of Calgary, if possible, because Calgary is a beautiful city and I love it very much.”
Nicole Vespa trains three times a week to prepare for a figure skating competition. The 25-year-old from Hamilton also competed in swimming, golf and rhythmic gymnastics with Special Olympics Canada.
“It gave me confidence,” Vespa said.
The impact Special Olympics Canada has had on both families is immeasurable. Darby's mother, Sue, said the program was transformative.
“I don’t know what Darby would have done once he finished high school, but Special Olympics gave him countless opportunities,” she said. “Events, friends, are truly life-changing.”
Nicole's father Paul added that it benefited him and his wife as well.
“I don't think without Special Olympics Nicole would be so active,” he said. “Then the friends we made all over the country, competing all over the country.
“We went to St. Albert, we went to Corner Brook, we made a lot of friends and keep in touch with them.”
Special Olympics Canada is looking for more than 1,200 volunteers to help with the Winter Games in Calgary, with applications available online. Coaches and other volunteers are also welcomed throughout the year across the country.
Erin Ambrose, a defender with Montreal's Women's Professional Hockey League team, is an advocate for Special Olympics Canada and hopes to see more people involved with the organization.
“It's just about being aware of what these athletes are doing,” Ambrose said. “I think just getting that exposure and knowledge is very important.
“We are sending over 800 athletes to these games and I think it shows that no matter what you are you have the opportunity to participate in sport.”
People across Canada can also contribute by purchasing a Special Olympics cake at Tim Hortons from Friday to Sunday. The coffee chain said that 100% of the proceeds from donut sales will be donated to Special Olympics Canada.
The Special Olympics Donut is a chocolate donut with white fondant, colorful sprinkles, and a whipped topping.
“I can only have one, because I'm training,” Nicole Vespa said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published February 1, 2024.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press