Ash honoured for Special Olympics work


Danette Dooley
Published on December 7, 2007
Andrew Ash (right), with his award-winning dad, Evan. Submitted photo

Evan Ash admits he and his wife, Allison, were totally shocked 25 years ago when they learned their son had Down Syndrome.

Through the years, though, Evan says, Andrew Ash has been the surprise of his parents' lives.

Evan Ash admits he and his wife, Allison, were totally shocked 25 years ago when they learned their son had Down Syndrome.

Through the years, though, Evan says, Andrew Ash has been the surprise of his parents' lives.

"I never thought," Evan Ash says today, "that things would turn out the way they've turned out. Andrew has a life of his own that's probably a lot better than a good many people who are labeled normal."

The youngest of three children, Andrew Ash went through the school system in C.B.S., always encouraged by his teachers and classmates.

He held summer jobs as a teenager while still a student.

After finishing school, he began working in supermarkets and for the past four years he's been working full-time at Coleman's on Merrymeeting Road in St. John's.

"He wouldn't miss a day for anything," Evan says.

Andrew's involvement in Special Olympics goes back about 15 years, his father says.

"He started bowling in C.B.S. and swimming in St. John's. At that point, the Mount Pearl group seemed to be getting organized and they offered both bowling and swimming so we felt it was more convenient for Andrew to be part of that group."

In recognition of his profound impact on the Special Olympics movement in Canada,

Evan was recently named Special Olympics' Canada's 2007 Volunteer of the Year and the 2007 Jim Thompson Award recipient.

Evan is in Toronto this week where he'll accept his national award.

He'll do so with Andrew and all the other Special Olympics Athletes in mind, he says.

Evan has been an integral member of the Special Olympics Mount Pearl Club and has served as chef de mission for the team at the provincial Games five times.

He was also a member of the host committee on two occasions and has been a member of Special Olympics Newfoundland and Labrador's provincial board of directors since 1998.

From 2002-2007, the elder Ash served as a member of the Special Olympics Canada coaches sub-committee.

Taking his commitment to the international level, he participated as a "fax extraordinaire" by traveling to Nagano, Japan in 2005 to cheer Andrew on when he was competing as part of Team Canada's showshoeing team in the World Games.

It's a trip Evan describes as "the best experience of my life," and one made by his entire family, including his two other children and their spouses.

According to Special Olympics Newfoundland and Labrador, there are over 450 Special Olympians in this province of all ages and abilities.

These athletes come from 12 community-based clubs.

While Special Olympics provide sporting activities for individuals with an intellectual disability,

Evan says it's really a means to give athletes like Andrew an opportunity to learn social skills, as well as to build self confidence and take on leadership roles within their communities.

Evan says those who have had an opportunity to spend time with individuals with an intellectual disability see first hand just how well they do with the correct support systems.

Sadly, however, not everyone gets an opportunity to see these individuals for their abilities rather than their disabilities.

"It's not the athletes that have the problem," he says, "it's the so-called normal people that have the problem.

"In my experience, the rest of the world that hasn't had any experience with them are intimidated by them. They don't know how to approach them or react to them.

"But all you have to do is speak to them," he says.

When the interview with Evan is almost concluded, Andrew comes into the living room and takes a seat next to his dad.

When asked if he's been told that his father has won a big award, Andrew smiles, takes his time in answering, but does so with a resounding yes.

While it takes Andrew a few moments to form his words and he often looks toward his father.

Evan does not answer for Andrew, rather encouraging him to speak for himself.

With time, Andrew finds his voice. He sums up well in just a few words what Special Olympics - and his father - mean to him.

"I meet new people. I like to be part of team. I like my coach. I like my dad. He's a great man. He helps me and helps other people."

For more information on Special Olympics Newfoundland and Labrador, call 709-738-1923.