Fanshawe College Leaves a Legacy for the 2010 Special Olympics
Although many of the athletes and supporters of the 2010 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games were only in London for one week in July, their presence will be felt long after, thanks to a tree-planting initiative held at the Graham Family EcoPark.
Elinor Schwob, right, of the Fanshawe College Foundation, and helper, planting one of the 1,426 new trees.
Volunteers, including many from Fanshawe College, gathered at the park on June 26, 2010, to plant 1,426 trees donated by Fanshawe College - one each for every athlete, coach and mission staff coming to the Games. Following the ceremonial planting of the first tree by Special Olympics athletes Lynn Madsen and Scott Tennant, volunteers broke into groups to plant the white spruce and white pine seedlings in different areas of the Medway Road park. Tennant, a Special Olympics athlete ambassador, said the trees would not only improve the appearance of the park, but are also symbolic of the athletes' journeys from local competitions to nationals, and then hopefully on to the world games. "A Special Olympics athlete's career is just like a tree," he said. "It just keeps growing and spreading."
A former gravel pit, EcoPark has been rehabilitated by the Graham family to be used for educational and recreational purposes. More than 500 kids from the Boys' and Girls' Club as well as visitors from other organizations that serve children visit the 26-acre park each week. In addition to the newly-planted trees and walking trails already found in the park, a wetland, tobogganing hill and zip line across a lake are also being planned for the land, according to founder Bob Graham. The mini-forest is the latest addition to a site in the northeast corner of the city created by the Graham family, which includes notable developer Bill Graham and the recycling company owned by his son, Jim.
Athletes will be able to see their trees continue to grow long after they leave London, said Inspector Steve Goodine, director of sponsorship and fundraising for the Games. "We plan to map it on Google so the athletes can find EcoPark and check on their trees. It will be something to remind them of their time in London at the Games." Fanshawe is playing a key role in supporting the EcoPark by lending talent to some of the projects.
The event, "a double celebration," according to Catherine Finlayson, executive director of the Fanshawe College Foundation, was both an opportunity to honour the athletes and their supporters, as well as a way to create a "legacy for the future" that will help to sustain our environment. Organizers of the Games were eager to help reduce the Games' carbon footprint and impact on the environment, said Goodine, noting, "We want to do something for the community."