Tannis Gayler says her daughter was very outgoing until she had her first seizure at the age of four. She says, “the rotating, ever changing drugs that were meant to control the seizures very much changed her personality and many times impacted her relationships.”
Marley Gayler, now 24, is a top female competitor at the provincial qualifiers in powerlifting and has been involved with Special Olympics for 10 years. “Her intellectual disability presents a daily challenge that requires her to work hard at overcoming the problems associated with it,” her mother says.
She says the drugs, that didn’t completely control the seizures, came with various side effects and made her daughter a zombie. Tannis helplessly watched as her daughter was ostracized for “being stupid and socially awkward.”
“More and more people are not fitting into the education system and are getting left behind or worse; passed along without having the ability and skills for everyday life. We are seeing more folks struggling with mental health and it appears that a good deal of people are on the spectrum. Everyone has folks in their lives that are impacted.”
“She started powerlifting four years ago, little did we know this was her sport. She loved everything about powerlifting,” says her mother. Finding a passion for the sport allowed her to regain the self-confidence she had lost and eventually, some of her outgoing personality would return. “She also became more accepted and often assists others now.”
For Marley, having the Spring 2020 games so close to home means her family, friends and her Tim Hortons co-workers can all come cheer her on.
When asked about goals for the future, Marley said being the top female at the provincial qualifiers inspired her to see how far she could go - Provincials, Nationals, Worlds. Her ambition evolves as her self-assurance grows; she now sees a future where she’s not just the top female, but top lifter.
Training is three powerlifting sessions a week and cross training twice a week. Her mother says the coaches tell her to believe in her training, have positive thoughts, and be confident and this is what she repeats to herself.
Her powerlifting coaches are Scott and Mike Simpson and Sascha King, at Active Souls Project. “They do an individualized training plan for her and switch it up each week. They are very detailed in their explanations to her and work on proper techniques so as not to get injured,” says Tannis.
She says, being involved can have a direct impact on an athletes’ perspective while bringing awareness to a particular disability. “It can make you more accepting and understanding of people with challenges in general.”
The Special Olympics Ontario Spring Games will be in Waterloo Region May 21-23. According to the website, the Games will bring more than 2,500 athletes, coaches, staff, volunteers, and spectators to the Region. Basketball, bowling, powerlifting, rhythmic gymnastics, and swimming will be represented.
The Waterloo Regional Police Service and Special Olympics Ontario have launched a Go Beyond business initiative, encouraging local businesses to Draft an Athlete in support of the 2020 Spring Games.
Tannis says becoming a mentor for an SO athlete is emotionally rewarding. “Seeing the hard work, dedication and all-out effort these athletes exhibit moves you and inspires you. We see our child more engaged, enthusiastic and healthier because of her involvement in Special Olympics.”
“This is a chance for local businesses and community members to come on board and help these incredible athletes achieve their dreams,” said Cherri Greeno, WRPS Manager of Corporate Communications.
When a business drafts an athlete or sponsors the Spring Games, they will receive a window decal to place in the front of their business.
“Our goal is to have every business display a window decal in their front door or window to show that Waterloo Region proudly supports our Special Olympics athletes,” said Bryan Larkin, Chief of Police. “We want the decals to be front and centre when our athletes, their families, coaches, and fans fill the streets of Waterloo Region in May.”