© Herald Photo by Dave Leaderhouse
What started out as just finding something to do has turned into a 30-year association with the Special Olympics and as a result the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame is honouring Darren Whitehead for his committment and passion for the organization by including him in the 2013 class of inductees. Whitehead is being celebrated for his meritorious service to sport and will join Malcolm Jenkins in that category when the annual induction banquet is held on Saturday in the Ches Leach Lounge at the Art Hauser Centre.
Editor’s note: This is the sixth instalment of a series of profiles highlighting those who will be inducted into the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday. The annual induction banquet is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Ches Leach Lounge at the Art Hauser Centre.
In a small way, the Saskatchewan Special Olympics, and the Prince Albert branch in particular, owe a big thank-you to the provincial government.
If it were not for a transfer to North Battleford in the early 1980s one might not know if Darren Whitehead would have got involved in the organization, but 30 years later he is still dedicating numerous hours and getting to see a good chunk of the world because of it.
“I got transferred to North Battleford and my boss had a son with an intellectual disability,” says Whitehead when recalling how his involvement in Special Olympics got started. “I was there by myself and he asked me if I wanted to come out one night and help out. I’ve been there ever since.”
“Winning doesn’t mean anything in Special O,” adds Whitehead. “It’s all about participation.”
Since joining the organization, Whitehead has been to four World Games – Alaska, Idaho, Japan and Korea – and five national Games – Charlottetown, PEI; Quebec City; Vancouver; London, Ont.; St. Albert, Alta. – in addition to 20-plus provincial Games including summer and winter events that were held in Prince Albert.
Whitehead has coached floor hockey, athletics, softball, golf and bowling and since 1995 he has been the referee-in-chief and sport technical advisor for floor hockey for the Saskatchewan Special Olympics.
Having also served on numerous committees, Whitehead spearheaded a joint venture with the Prince Albert Raiders to host the annual Training for Life Power Breakfast which serves as a major fundraiser for both groups.
Although his experiences have all been very positive, Whitehead does admit to periods of frustration. Those, however, are brief as he says an hour after an incident occurs “you just sit there and giggle at what just happened.”
With plans of retiring from both work and the Special Olympics still five or six years away, Whitehead says he is honoured and surprised to be included in this year’s class of inductees going into the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame.
“I don’t know how well I deserve it; I’m still not retiring,” says Whitehead. “It’s a real honour and something I didn’t expect at all.”
“I’d like to go to one more world’s,” adds Whitehead in reference to the next World Games being held in Austria in 2017. “The next nationals are in Newfoundland and that is the only place in Canada I haven’t seen.”
Whitehead’s commitment to the Special Olympic is being recognized once again – he was the Special Olympics coach of the year in 1993 and Prince Albert Sportsman of the Year in 2010 – as he is being honoured for meritorious service to sport when the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame holds its annual induction banquet on Saturday.
Whitehead will join Malcolm Jenkins in that category while also being enshrined are Sherry Anderson in the athlete’s category; Barry Mihilewicz, Dwight Bergstrom, Wayne Simpson and Ron Horn as builders; the 1948 Royal Hilltops fastball team and Prince Albert Minor Softball as the inaugural association of the year.
Tickets for the banquet are available by contacting the Community Services Department in City Hall.