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Alberta commemorates Special Olympics 50th anniversary

Canadian Special Olympics figure skater Katie Xu is shown in a handout photo. The Canadian Press

A major milestone for the Special Olympics was commemorated on Saturday.

The province marked the organization’s 50th anniversary by declaring July 21, the Global Day of Inclusion.

“It’s about the population that we serve, which is people with intellectual disabilities,” said Special Olympics Alberta CEO Johnny Byrne.

“That declaration is all about the potential that they have and the fact we need to do more for them.

“The provincial government signing on  that just really re-affirms that they see the value of people with intellectual disabilities and the work that we need to do on their behalf.”

READ MORE: Special Olympics celebrates 50 years with sweet treats at Tim Hortons, day-long celebration

Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities, providing year-round training and competitions to five million athletes in 172 countries.

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On Saturday, Tim Hortons raised money for Special Olympics Canada by selling a special doughnut designed by an athlete.

“It’s not necessarily a population that has a strong voice because they’re not given a strong voice, so part of today is that people with intellectual disabilities are a really important part of our community,” Byrne added.

“We see our part in that as ensuring that they have the opportunity to play sport and they have the opportunity to be leaders.”

WATCH: Understanding the importance of inclusion through Special Olympics

There are about 3,400 Special Olympic athletes in Alberta.

This month the non-profit organization is featuring a number of compelling stories from athletes who have improved their quality of life through sports. You can read some of those stories here.

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