Photo Provided by Georgia Mayhew

motionball is a national non-profit organization dedicated to empowering young Canadians and raising funds for Special Olympics through inclusive social and sporting events. Over the last few months, 35 universities have been hosting events across Canada, and on March 23, UBCO students and Special Olympics athletes joined together as motionball UBC Okanagan hosted their fourth annual Marathon of Sport Fundraiser.

The motionball committee at UBCO is dedicated to including, supporting, and celebrating individuals with intellectual disabilities in British Columbia. Georgia Mayhew, the event director, explained that the committee is made up of 14 student volunteers. They work throughout the year, planning, reaching out to sponsors, and advertising to ensure that the event is a success. Mayhew said that many Special Olympics athletes call the Marathon of Sport one of their favourite days of the year.

Led by the student volunteers from UBCO, the event started with opening ceremonies, where participants could thank the sponsors and go over rules, emphasizing that the event is for fun. Next, to kick off the sports, five young Special Olympics athletes performed a ceremonial ribbon cut. Mayhew felt that this was an important moment because it allowed the younger athletes to be involved and “get a sense of what the Special Olympics is like.”

Teams of eight students were paired with one to two Special Olympics athletes, and they rotated through eight stations of games including floor hockey, corn hole, and volley-pong. 136 students came to participate; there were two rugby teams, three women’s soccer teams, and a UBCO Recreation front desk team, to name a few. Mayhew noted that there is “always lots of support from Heat athletics” at motionball events, “and they always have a good time.”

But the Marathon of Sport Fundraiser is not just about fun and games; it's also about making a difference, and the participants did not disappoint. This year, the event raised an impressive $18,500 for Special Olympics Canada, making UBCO the highest fundraising school in the West. Top fundraisers included Grace Halpin, Georgia Mayhew, and Liam Kightley-Kauser. There was also a bit of friendly competition between two teams fighting to become the top fundraising team. The Old Bulls took on the Young Bucks, with the agreement that whoever came second had to go for a plunge in a lake. The Bulls raised almost $2,000 and claimed the victory, sending the Bucks for a swim and creating an uproar of laughter among the other teams.

Now, where does the money go? Mayhew explained that all funds raised at motionball events go directly to the Special Olympics Canada Foundation, and then different amounts break down and go towards specific causes. 70 per cent goes to local Special Olympics provincial chapters to support local programs, and 25 per cent stays within the foundation to support national Special Olympics initiatives and areas of need. 

The remaining five per cent supports the #NoGoodWay campaign, which is motionball’s campaign to end the use of the “R-word” and create a more inclusive society for people with intellectual disabilities. Among the eight stations at the Marathon of Sport event, there was a #NoGoodWay informative station where participants signed a pledge to eliminate the R-word from their vocabulary.

Now that you have heard all about motionball, you should consider getting involved in next year’s event. Whether you join the committee or put a team together, it is important to “bridge that gap between UBCO students and the Special Olympic athlete community,” said Mayhew.

There is a $20 fee to register, which includes a motionball tee shirt and your lunch, and if you can raise $50, you get your registration fee back. Mayhew explained that while raising money is not mandatory, collecting even a small amount of money can make a major impact. If you raise $300, you receive a travel mug which provides a volunteer Special Olympics coach with the resources they need to obtain their certification. Raising $600 gets you a cooler bag and sends an athlete to compete at the Provincial games. $1,200 starts a new Special Olympics club in a community, and $1,500 puts a new Special Olympics athlete into the Special Olympics for free.

Anyone interested in captaining a team, joining the executive committee, or volunteering with Special Olympics Kelowna can email or message @motionballuokanagan on Instagram. Events like the Marathon of Sport serve as powerful reminders of the transformative impact of sport and community, and if you can get involved in any way, you are highly encouraged to do so.