News Story

Latter-day Saints Volunteer at the Special Olympics BC Winter Games in Kamloops

Cyndi Hurtgen knows a few things about the power of volunteering. Previously the program co-ordinator of local Special Olympics events, she recently used the power of social media to recruit volunteers for the 2023 Special Olympics British Columbia (SOBC) Winter Games.

Hurtgen is the volunteer co-ordinator for the Kamloops 1st Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was not surprised when people responded to her Facebook post looking for volunteers. Many Latter-day Saints registered to help at the SOBC Winter Games, held in Kamloops February 2-4, 2023.

Kamloops, the tournament capital of Canada and unceded ancestral land of Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc, was the host city for the first SOBC Games in 1968. Now, 55 years later, local area residents were excited for another “first” as Kamloops became the first to host the SOBC Games post-pandemic.

Over 500 athletes with intellectual disabilities competed in sports, including curling, snowshoeing, speedskating, figure skating, bowling, floor hockey, and Alpine and cross-country skiing. These athletes were the stars of the event and were encouraged by around 250 support coaches and mission staff.

More than 700 community members volunteered their time and skills to make the event a success. Here are a few stories from Latter-day Saint volunteers.

Cheer Squad

Walker Bartel, a young man in Kamloops 2nd Ward, volunteered with the local junior boys rugby club. He and his teammates were assigned to provide safety, security and setup during the speedskating events. As the team grew into their role, they decided to go above and beyond their assignment by becoming the cheering squad for the Special Olympics athletes. Event officials encouraged them to keep it up as the cheer squad, because SOBC athletes rarely get cheered on with such enthusiasm. Bartel said that his favourite experience was “definitely cheering.”

Other volunteers agreed that one of the best parts of volunteering was answering participants’ questions, listening to athletes tell their stories and giving an endless supply of air high-fives and fist bumps.

Joy of Volunteering

Brian Arnold, a first-time Special Olympics volunteer from Kamloops 1st Ward, already knows the joy of volunteering. Arnold provides volunteer on-call pastoral care at the local Kamloops hospital. Providing pastoral care is fulfilling but at times takes an emotional toll, so Arnold was looking for a boost when he learned about the opportunity to volunteer for the Special Olympics. Arnold served food to the athletes and found it to be a positive and uplifting experience. It was just what he needed — a boost of energy. He looks forward to volunteering regularly with the Special Olympics, as the joy he felt was just the thing he needed.

Photography: Capturing the Moments

Kasandra Mathieson, a professional photographer in Kamloops 1st Ward, volunteered to document the opening ceremonies, snowshoeing, floor hockey and closing ceremonies through photography. Her images, along with those taken by other members of the media team, are publicly accessible on the Special Olympics B.C. photo stream at

Mathieson shared that she was inspired by the level of sportsmanship she saw as she photographed events. In particular, she recounted that while watching the snowshoeing events, she saw that one athlete fell and lost a snowshoe. The athlete behind stopped, helped reattach the snowshoe and then assisted the other athlete so they could return to the competition together.

Sharing the Athletes’ Stories

Kathy Cruz, from Kamloops 2nd Ward, joined the media team as a storyteller. Stationed at the curling and figure skating events, she interviewed athletes, coaches and volunteers about their experiences. Her audio recordings of interviews will be used throughout the SOBC website.

Cruz shared how small and simple acts of kindness inspired by the Spirit can be an answer to someone else’s prayer. She said, “We need one another to lift each other up. Heavenly Father and Jesus don’t come down to help each person; they send a neighbour, brother, cousin or another person to answer prayers.”

Volunteering Spreads Love

Hurtgen’s Facebook post helped recruit many Latter-day Saints in Kamloops and reminded her of the power of volunteering. “Volunteering spreads the love that Heavenly Father and the Saviour have for all children on Earth,” she said. “[As a Special Olympics volunteer], you see and learn what humility truly means. You see how others cope with [challenges]. You may learn something new, meet people that you would never have crossed paths with otherwise. Your faith in humanity will increase; you may see your life from a different perspective.”

Contributed by Andrew Lamb, Vernon British Columbia Stake Communication Council, Journalism Specialist

Read the story in French.

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