'Something we'll remember forever': 5-year-old Islander featured in Special Olympics campaign
'It's a pretty special opportunity for him to have been chosen'
From the swinging rope to the foam pit to the balance beam, five-year-old Special Olympics athlete Toby Mackenzie wants to try everything at the Island Gymnastics Academy in Charlottetown.
Toby has been in the Special Olympics' Active Start program since he was two years old. This year he was selected to represent the organization as part of its fundraising campaign.
"It's a pretty special opportunity for him to have been chosen," said Toby's mom Meagan Collins. "Something we'll remember forever."
Collins said going to the Active Start program is one of her son's favourite things to do, along with going to the park and trips to grandma's house.
"It's been amazing," she said. "Toby works on anything from running to hopping to balancing on one foot, throwing a ball, kicking a ball and just getting involved in any kind of physical activity."
'I know that guy'
The Special Olympics campaign featuring Toby is being promoted at the check-out counters of Sobeys stores across Canada until June 16.
"We've really enjoyed visiting the different stores and Toby loved seeing himself in all of the promotions," she said.
"He kind of looked at it, gave it the side-eye like 'I know that guy.'"
The goal of the campaign is to boost awareness about the importance of inclusivity in sports and raise money to support programs for individuals with an intellectual disability.
"He learned so much through this program and not only did he learn so much, he met a lot of friends through this program that we still keep in touch with to this day," said Toby's father Jeff Mackenzie, who is also a Special Olympics coach.
"I couldn't imagine what his life would be like if we'd never had this program."
'It can change lives'
When Toby first started attending sessions at Island Gymnastics Academy, his dad said they mostly sat in the corner watching the other kids.
"I still remember his first days when he started cruising around the gym," said Mackenzie. "The program definitely played a big part on his way to his first steps."
Now in the gym, Toby is going full steam ahead and on a mission to try every activity possible.
As for his parents, they are proud to see how much he's accomplished and hope his involvement in the campaign brings awareness to the Special Olympics so programs like this one can continue.
"Inclusivity is something that's very important to our family," said Mackenzie.
"It can change lives."