A real highlight for me over this past year was attending a special fundraising dinner in Red Deer for Special Olympics, with the featured guest speakers including world class women’s aerialist Deadra Dion and Hanna, Alberta’s favourite son and hockey super star, Lanny McDonald.
Both extremely congenial and community minded athletes offered their sincere congratulations and good luck to all our special Olympians, coaches and supporters; not only for their extreme talents and efforts, but for their wonderful desire to enjoy life to the fullest. These fine athletes of all ages from throughout our province and nation have taken complete advantage of the exciting opportunity to take part in various levels of competition from the local to international level, while overcoming and coping with serious set-backs and illnesses in their lives.
Dion and McDonald both stressed during their excellent and very sincere addresses to the large audience on hand that they too had both faced some sudden and drastic changes in their very colourful sporting careers. They assured everyone that although there will always be some tough challenges and setbacks along the way, that no one should ever be afraid of heading in another direction and making a few adjustments and sacrifices if necessary.
Deadra Dion was on top of the world standings in the thrilling sport of Women’s Skiing aerials in 2002 and looking towards more success in Olympic and World Cup competitions until a horrific crash during a practise session left her with a severely broken neck. Just in her early 20s this vibrant young lady was faced with the possibility of being paralyzed, but with her overwhelming desire to succeed and the inspirational help of her parents, professionals, and friends she recovered from her injuries and was back on the world circuit the following season.
Lanny McDonald, with his ever present iconic red walrus moustache and toothless smile, broke into the National Hockey League in 1973, and played 18 great seasons of 1,111 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Rockies, and Calgary Flames. Through his illustrious career he would tally 500 goals and 506 assists for 1,006 points, help the Calgary Flames win a Stanley Cup in 1989, add a number of individual awards along the way, and saw his cherished number 9 sweater added to the Hockey Hall of Fame. In a casual and funny style Lanny McDonald related some of the many highlights of his very successful career to the appreciative crowd, but quietly added that one of his toughest tests came after his retirement in 1990. “It was a mid-life crisis of life after hockey… what was I going to do after the glitz and spotlight of professional sport?” he asked. To try and answer some of those questions and relieve the stress he enrolled in a special seminar on how to face changes in our lives.
McDonald went on to relate that before the room full of participants in the course could even get settled into their chairs the instructor announced…. “I want you all to change something about yourselves in the next few minutes!” Pondering the situation with little time to plan the students all began to remove personal items of clothing, such as a coat, a tie, a shoe, and others. After repeating the same request five times the captive audience sat in a state of polite undress nervously waiting for further instructions.
The instructor then casually observed, “I see that all of you felt that you had to lose or remove something to make a personal change.” Why didn’t you simply just move your watch from one wrist to the other, cross your knees the opposite direction, put on some fresh lipstick, comb your hair in a different style, or some other unique transformation about yourself?” He went on to explain that change could be as simple and fun as trying a different radio station in your car, taking a different route home from work, wearing that bright red shirt you like, or doing something you wouldn’t dare, like enrolling in a belly dancing course or growing a Lanny McDonald moustache.
Change is as inevitable as the seasons, the clock, and the calendar; and we need to try and approach them with an open mind, and attempt to look at the conversion as an adventure and a challenge that we can share and work out together with others. The age-old saying is that the grass may not always be greener on the other side, but we may never find out if we don’t take a few steps in that new direction. Something new is something different in our daily routines that will turn out for better or for worst, depending on how we approach them. Have a great week, all of you.