Special Olympians hit the right notes with new Corner Brook choir

Rebecca Hampton and Sarah Flight are members of Special Olympics and also love to sing. They have been friends since they were children. (Bernice Hillier / CBC)

Choirs across the country can’t wait to perform this holiday season after restrictions from last year’s pandemic, but a western Newfoundland choir can be more enthusiastic than most.

The group, made up mostly of Special Olympics athletes, will perform for the first time on Sunday.

“I couldn’t wait to be a part of it,” said Rebecca Hampton, 23, who has been singing since she was a teenager but only competed in the Special Olympics this year.

“Everyone has a talent, and they should appreciate that special talent,” said Hampton.

The Special Olympics organization provides sports opportunities for youth and adults with intellectual disabilities. For some of the people involved, shifting their focus away from moving their bodies to using their vocal cords to sing songs is something entirely new.

Melanie Gosse and her choir of Special Olympics athletes and friends in Corner Brook. (Bernice Hillier / CBC)

Make a dream come true

It was a special Olympian Sarah Flight, 22, who initiated the idea of ​​a choir.

Flight has been participating in the Special Olympics for the past five years and also enjoys taking singing lessons with her music teacher Melanie Gosse.

“I knew a lot of other athletes who also loved to sing,” Flight said. “And I kind of mentioned to Melanie that there would be people who might be interested in doing that, if we just asked them.”

Kid was eager to try it out, and the Born to Fly fundraising concert for Special Olympics started to take shape.

First, Gosse received approval from the local Special Olympics organization, and then approached the athletes about the idea while they were at a bowling practice.

She told them that she would help them prepare two selections to play as a group, including the song Fly by Canadian singer April Lavigne, which has become the anthem of the Special Olympics.

“I brought in a whole bunch of athletes who wanted to sing songs for the show. And I was like, ‘Awesome! This is going to be amazing,’” Gosse said.

Touching a sensitive chord

As the choir rehearses together, it’s easy to sense their enthusiasm for the singing and the fact that they are having a lot of fun doing it.

But Gosse said there were some emotional moments too, like when they first trained together.

“We started singing, and there were a few students who were so thrilled to be so happy to sing and to have this opportunity that they cried,” Gosse said.

Relative Anissa Bennett said she already shed a few tears at the thought of her 12-year-old son Dylan performing in the choir.

“He’s in grade 7 and has never been able to participate in school events like choirs or Christmas concerts. Maybe it could be due to special needs. He wasn’t able to handle it at the time, ”Bennett said.

12-year-old Dylan Bennett will perform for the first time on stage with the Special Olympics Choir. (Bernice Hillier / CBC)

But Dylan Bennett is happy with the opportunity now.

“I love to sing with my friends and I sing well. I train and train every Saturday,” he said.

Dylan’s mother will be one of the proudest members of the audience as her son takes the stage to sing along with his friends.

“I think it’s a perfect opportunity for them… I think it’s time for all of these athletes to shine, my son included,” said Bennett.

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