Without Linda Brandon, Haliburton’s sporting community would be missing some of its most dedicated and enthusiastic athletes.

Brandon was key in bringing the Special Olympics to the area, which led to the creation of curling, golf, shuffleboard, and softball teams.

She’s now inducted into the Haliburton Highlands Sports Hall of Fame.

“Linda modeled ways to create inclusive communities with open hearts and minds,” wrote the Hall of Fame committee. “She built a foundation of sport in Haliburton County for athletes of all abilities.”

Brandon said it was “a lot to process” when she learned she would be recognized.

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“Expect the unexpected,” Brandon said. “It was an overwhelming honour and very humbling to be included in the ‘builder’ category.”

Brandon is known for her skill and passion for building community. Not only did she run weekly practices, organize tournaments, and partner with community groups, she nurtured her athletes with a practiced hand, earning level two national coaching certificates from Special Olympics Ontario. She started the Red Wolves five-pin bowling team in 1997 and was the club’s manager, coach and treasurer until 2007. Brandon’s team won gold at the 2004 provincial games and a player she coached, Carrie Crego, won bronze in Manitoba at the national level.

However, she said her greatest achievement wasn’t medals or tournament success.

“It was the coming together of a great team who shared similar inclusive values. A team that collectively promoted and built upon how we saw our athletes.”

“Focusing on athletes’ abilities encouraged our athletes to strive to improve their personal best standing,” she said.

Brandon said she’s seen the community embrace athletes with disabilities over the years.

“Through the tremendous efforts of our local communities: businesses, organizations, service clubs, and many volunteers, collectively their efforts have encouraged inclusiveness in sport,” she said.

As for her team and athletes, Brandon said she will always remember the way they came together to celebrate.

“Celebrations that not only honoured the achievements of our athletes, we also celebrated the dedicated contributions made by our coaches and significant others. Throughout the building of our Special Olympic Red Wolves team we took the time to have fun and enjoy the experience while engaged in a sport we loved.”

Brandon’s time with the Red Wolves will be commemorated at the Hall of Fame exhibit in the Haliburton Arena, opening in 2022.

“Whether in her role as an educational assistant, a Special Olympics coach, or a friend,” wrote the committee, “Linda modeled ways to create inclusive communities with open hearts and minds. She built a foundation of sport in Haliburton County for athletes of all abilities.”

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