This June 12th will mark the first annual Parcours des Héros, an initiative organized by Laval Police and Special Olympics Québec (SOQ), taking place at Centre de la Nature. The fundraising event brings together teams composed of Laval police officers and public security agents and SOQ athletes from across the province, who will compete in a large-scale obstacle course to race to the finish line.

Thirty teams will participate, each consisting of four police officers or agents and one SOQ athlete who must work together to find creative ways to safely conquer the various obstacles presented. In addition to fundraising, the event is designed to promote a spirit of teamwork and mutual respect amongst the officers and the athletes with intellectual disabilities.

According to Marie-Josée Carroll, Fundraising Coordinator for the SOQ and liaison with law enforcement agencies, this event is very unique in two ways: it will be an urban obstacle course—the first in Quebec—as well as it being the first time that the athletes are teamed up with law enforcement officers. “The meaning behind the name Parcours des Héros is significant in that the heroes are the Special Olympics athletes,” says Carroll. “The mission of the teams is to do all the obstacles in collaboration with the Special Olympics athletes, and make them feel included and implicated in team decisions,” she explains. “Everybody has to start and finish together.”

This new event, which is the first of its kind for our province, is an extension of a long-standing relationship between law enforcement agencies and the SOQ. Annual Torch Run events (Course au Flambeau) take place to help raise funds and awareness for the SOQ, and law enforcement officers act as the athletes at these events. Torch Run events are organized nationwide and also have a 40-year history in the United States.

Pierre Brochet, Chief of Police for Laval, also has a long-standing relationship with the SOQ as member of the Board of Directors for the past seven years. “I think it’s important as a police department to associate ourselves with these kinds of events, to bring together officers and a group of people who may be considered a vulnerable population—we are there to protect them in society,” says Brochet. “We want to send the message that we want them included in society, and that they are a part of our community. Social inclusion is so important.”

The SOQ has over 6 250 athletes across Quebec, and organizes over 50 athletic competitions yearly. Valérie Gagnon-Paradis, a SOQ athlete, Ambassador and Laval resident, knows first-hand how important these sports events are to children and adults with intellectual disabilities. “The Special Olympics enriches our lives, it motivates us and shows us that we can achieve our goals and dreams,” she says.

Karine Ménard, a Laval police officer and one of the members of the organizing committee for Parcours des Héros, has been involved with the preparation for this event for several months. “The objective for us in organizing this event was to not only offer our support in fundraising but to finally have an event here in Laval, for our community and one that the public can attend and enjoy,” says Ménard. “Though our officers are often called upon to participate in SOQ activities outside our city, this will be the first time we have an event in Laval that bring us together with the community in a more relaxed, fun-filled manner.”

On June 12th, the public is invited to cheer on the various teams, the SOQ athletes, several major sponsors, and numerous volunteers, including students in the Police Technology program from CEGEP de Montreal. Following the obstacle course, there will be an awards ceremony, refreshments and afternoon festivities for all participants to enjoy.

Gagnon-Paradis, who earned medals for swimming at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, offers this advice to all special athletes: “Whether you want to be a professional dancer, writer, or athlete, go after your dream!”