Four-year-old Emmanuel Tezera has spent most of the pandemic teaching his mother Sosena how to bowl, mimicking his favourite coaches from his Special Olympics program.
Emmanuel Tezera joined the Special Olympics' Active Start program two years ago and his mom said it has had a huge impact on his life, helping him build his self-confidence. But during the COVID-19 pandemic he hasn't been able to attend in-person activities, instead "practising" by coaching his mom.
"He tells me how to do things, gives me all the instructions, shows me how to do it, all the stretching and exercising," said Sosena Tezera. "He lines up the pins in different ways for me, he tries different ways to bowl when it's not challenging anymore."
Although Emmanuel Tezera has still been able to attend school through much of the pandemic, his mom said he still misses his friends and activities from the Special Olympics.
"He's looking forward to reuniting with his friends and playing," said Sosena Tezera, who added that anything her son has learned at the Special Olympics he has been practising at home as he eagerly awaits returning to the program.
"It's not just playing sports, they play games and do activities, have social interactions. He loves that too."
Rise Little Earthling, a Canadian clothing brand aimed at children under the age of six, named Wednesday the first-ever Differences Day, a day of national recognition meant to celebrate our many differences.
Special Olympics Canada is the charitable beneficiary of the event, with 10 per cent of proceeds from Rise Little Earthling sales at Toys R Us going to the organization.
Rise Little Earthling also said it will donate funds to the Special Olympics movement for every #DifferencesDay mention and tag on social media.
Three-time Canadian Olympic hockey player Meaghan Mikkelson said she's using Differences Day as an opportunity to teach her son Calder and daughter Berkley about being inclusive before they go back to school.
"As a mother of two kids I can't think of anything that speaks to me more than that vision of inclusivity," said Mikkelson. "It's something that I want for my kids in the future."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2021.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press