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Kamloops resident honoured with national volunteer award

Longtime Special Olympics BC stalwart Marilyn McLean has been recognized by the federal government
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Marilyn McLean — seen here with some Special Olympics BC athletes — is the 2022 recipient of the Thérèse Casgrain Lifelong Achievement Award.

A Kamloops woman has been honoured with a national volunteer award from the federal government.

Marilyn McLean is the 2022 recipient of the Thérèse Casgrain Lifelong Achievement Award.

McLean was recognized for her work with Special Olympics British Columbia, a provincial organization that provides year-round sport and competition opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. McLean will identify a not-for-profit organization to receive a $10,000 grant as part of the award.

McLean has volunteered with Special Olympics British Columbia for 42 years and, in 1980, was a signing officer for the organization’s first constitution. She was also a member of its first board of directors.

At that time, there were few opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities in health and sports. McLean saw a need and worked with other like-minded people to set up Special Olympics BC.

In 1982, Marilyn formed the Kamloops chapter of Special Olympics BC and she has been involved with the group ever since. Today, the chapter has more than 200 athletes and volunteers involved in year-round programs. McLean also played a key role in the provincial Games when Kamloops hosted the event. The Games bring thousands of athletes and volunteers together to compete, with Kamloops set to host again in February 2023.

In 2002, McLean was inducted into the Special Olympics BC Hall of Fame in the Builder category.

In addition to that work, McLean has also sat on the Special Olympics BC Provincial Advisory Council, trained people for the Athlete Speakers Bureau, engaged volunteers to help support the Games, volunteered as a program co-ordinator and been head coach for rhythmic gymnastics.

“I have had the great opportunity and pleasure to work with Marilyn for over 40 years in support of Special Olympics BC and have personally witnessed the time, energy, skills, resources and commitment that she has given so generously to the society,” Special Olympics BC president Dan Howe said. “Marilyn is a key figure in SOBC’s history and one who has always lived her sincere commitment to the mission of this organization.”

Added longtime SOBC athlete Marilee Manning: “She’s great with us. Whenever I need to call her about anything, I can call her … She’s just wonderful for us.” 

In 2018, McLean was inducted into the Kamloops Sports Hall of Fame.

“There are many heartwarming stories about incredible athletes who participate in Special Olympics,” she said in her induction speech. “For me, the biggest story is that Special Olympics allows us to celebrate the abilities of people who may have been defined by their disabilities. I want you to make an effort to see the abilities of the people you come in contact with. I guarantee that your life will be richer for it.” 

Canada's Volunteer Awards recognize community leaders, not-for-profit organizations, social enterprises and businesses who have made significant contributions in improving the lives of others.