Brandon Park's family gets in on the speed skating excitement

Dave Kearsey dkearsey@thewesternstar.com
Published on March 5, 2016

Doilie Burridge cheers on her grandson, Brandon Park of McIver’s, during one of his speed skating races at the 2016 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games earlier this week.

©Dave Kearsey/The Western Star

Doilie Burridge was a proud nanny, choking back tears and fighting through a hoarse throat as she watched her grandson Brandon Pike bring the speed skating venue to life with his charm and wit.

Brandon Park of Team Newfoundland and Labrador makes his way around the speed skating track Thursday at the 2016 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games at the Kinsmen Arena II in Corner Brook.
Geraldine Brophy/The Western Star

A man of few words — his mom Lisa Burridge told The Western Star before the Games got underway — the quiet one with the little grin was a hit with the fans as he collected one gold and three silver medals for the Newfoundland and Labrador speed skating contingent.

Doilie was among a large contingent of Brandon’s family who were in the stands cheering on the athletes as the national showcase of Special Olympics spirit was on display in Corner Brook this week with 1,000 athletes and coaches from coast to coast reaching out to make new friends and have fun in their various disciplines.

Nan was beside herself cheering on Brandon from the stands as he skated to a bronze-medal in one of his races Wednesday.

It was the first time for most of the family seeing Brandon skating so it was certainly a magical moment.

“It means everything to me,” the proud nan responded when asked to sum it up her feelings about watching Brandon competing.

“His mom and dad have done wonderful for him. It has worked out good for him. He’s great for only two years in skating,” she added as she struggled to get the words out because she was feeling overwhelmed with what she witnessed.

Seeing Brandon being hugged by fellow skaters and receiving congratulations from everybody did everybody’s heart good it was evident in the group of family and friends that had gathered in one section of the rink to watch their own compete.

“It makes me proud because the way he is. He’s not like every man, but he did wonderful,” she said.

Poppy Ben Burridge sat behind nan during the race and never showed much emotion, but was still trying to get his thoughts together moments after Brandon had finished his skate.

“It’s wonderful to see him doing great and I’m so proud of how he did,” he said as a smile formed on his face.

A busload of children  from Templeton Academy, where Brandon attends school, arrived at the speed skating event on Day 1 of the Games to show their support for a guy who seems to be popular no matter where he goes or what he’s doing.

Aunts, uncles, cousins ... they wanted to be there so Brandon knew they appreciate all the hard work he put in to become the first Special Olympian to represent Newfoundland and Labrador at a Special Olympics Canada Winter Games.

Beverley Smith, a cousin on hand for the race, had no idea what was in store for her before she went to watch him skate but she knew it was the place to be for her because she wanted Brandon to know she is a big supporter of him like the rest of his family.

“It’s very hard to describe. I came to support him and I can’t turn myself away,” Smith said. “What you feel when you see him skating, and all the skaters actually, it’s so much joy I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”