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Chefs de Mission: The Team Behind the Team, presented by Scotiabank

January 30, 2024

Behind every athlete at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games is a team of supporters – a team made up of a mix of family, friends, and coaches that have a hand in the success of the athletes. People that are there to cheer them on, drive them to practice and watch with bated breath as they perform. But there’s one official role, that of the Chef de Mission, that plays a key part in every athlete’s journey to the Games.

Officially, the Chef(s) de Mission lead their provincial or territory chapter to the Games, keep the teams organized, and support the athletes, coaches and managers with logistics, communication and travel.

It’s a demanding role, but one that comes with many rewards. As Karine Harvey, Chef de Mission for Team Quebec shares, her favourite part is “[seeing] the athletes evolve in their athletic journey, as much as on the personal development side. I have seen many athletes grow socially and gain self-confidence through participation in sport with Special Olympics.”

The sense of fulfillment one gets in this role keeps many Chefs engaged with their Chapter for years.

Matthew McNally will be filling the role for Special Olympics P.E.I. for the fifth time at the 2024 Winter Games.

“I consider myself organized, patient and thorough. This works well in my role of coordinating and supporting the expert coaches and mission so that athletes’ overall experience is enhanced,” said McNally when asked what he feels he brings to the Team.

As each Chef de Mission understands, the athletes’ experience is at the core of everything they do, every decision made. Team Yukon’s Chef de Mission, Andrew Elines’ aspiration for the Games is “for all athletes to compete to the best of their ability and have an unforgettable experience.”

Similar to the athletes’ preparation, the responsibilities of the Chefs begin well before the Games. Back in September 2023, the Chefs attended a two-day operational briefing in Calgary.

To aid in ensuring that every athlete, along with their team of supporters, can navigate the Games successfully, the Chefs familiarized themselves with the operations of the Games, reviewed schedules, policies and procedures, and worked with the Games Organizing Committee to ensure everything from athlete registration to travel logistics will be seamless. It’s the type of preparation that requires dedication and passion, of which the Chefs have plenty.

“As Chef, my value is in the ability to create a team culture that empowers each member and provides the opportunity to reach their full potential,” said Michelle Cruickshank (Special Olympics British Columbia).

It’s a value that speaks to Scotiabank, this year’s sponsor of the Chef(s) de Mission. Scotiabank understands the role that inclusivity plays in building a winning team, and how empowering individuals is key to success.

“At Scotiabank, we believe an inclusive culture is one where all individuals are respected for who they are, and where differences and similarities are embraced. By fostering inclusivity among employees, we enable them to do their best work and, in this way, we strengthen our team where everyone is encouraged to reach their fullest potential,” said Maria Saros, Vice President and Global Head of Social Impact at Scotiabank. “Supporting athletes with intellectual disabilities in sports is another way we can help advance inclusion beyond the Bank, and we are so pleased to support the Chef(s) de Mission to help ensure an exceptional experience for all at the Special Olympics.”

The Chefs wear many hats in their role – one of a coordinator, mentor, supporter, and cheerleader. As the athletes prepare to shine in Calgary at the Special Olympic Canada Winter Games, you can bet that the Chef(s) de Mission will be there holding the spotlight.

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