Kensington park honours accomplishments of Island Special Olympian
Roy Paynter took home four medals at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi
People visiting the park on Lions Drive in Kensington, P.E.I., will now be greeted with large signs honouring a local Special Olympics athlete.
The park has been named Roy Paynter Park in honour of the swimmer who brought home four medals from the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi earlier in this year.
"I think anybody that accomplished something like that deserves to be recognized in a special way," said Kensington Mayor Rowan Caseley.
Paynter, who's medal count included two gold, said he was "ecstatic" to be honoured by the town.
He said he has been amazed by the reception he's received since returning from Abu Dhabi in March.
The town held an event to honour him. But Caseley said he heard from a number of locals asking if the town could do something more permanent to recognize Paynter.
Soon, the idea of naming the park came up and was approved by council.
"It's something that the youth use, it's got the recreation involved, it's something that the town wants to spend a little money in upgrading a bit … so we thought, hey, perfect," Caseley said.
Paynter hopes the signs listing his medals will send a positive message to kids who play at the park.
"That you can do anything, and just keep your mind to it. And just, keep on swimming."
More recognition for athletes
Paynter was the only Island athlete on Team Canada during the Games.
The executive director of Special Olympics P.E.I. hopes the medals he won, and the accolades he's received since, will inspire other young athletes.
"You know they're coming from a small community in Prince Edward Island — from Souris to Tignish where all our programs are — but they're seeing that it's possible," said Charity Sheehan.
"It is possible that if I work hard and I train hard and I find the sport that I love the most, that I can attain that, too. And I think that's a really great message for people."
Sheehan, involved in Special Olympics for two decades, said the naming of the park is another sign of wider community recognition for the movement.
"There was this thing a number of years ago where I always wanted our athletes to have a heroes' welcome," she said.
"Other athletes were having that and we have that every single time we go somewhere.… We have our heroes' welcome now and it's just such a blessing."
For Paynter, that recognition continued months after his return from Abu Dhabi, with politicians, family, friends and community members gathered to watch as he cut the ribbon to celebrate the park's new name.
"Everybody that knows me and loves me that's over here is amazing."