Recognizing International Customs Day – Introducing, Tara Bottan

Tara Bottan has been working for the past 20 years as an officer with Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) in several locations across Ontario.  Her career with CBSA began as a summer student while attending Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.  Her CBSA career lead her to positions in the Oshawa Customs Longroom as well as Pearson International Airport, Pigeon River and the Thunder Bay office.

Tara’s introduction to the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) came years ago during a visit to the Thunder Bay Police Service.  On that visit, she met Julie Tilbury, a long time Torch Runner and supporter of Special Olympics Ontario (SOO).  The Thunder Bay LETR committee had a spot open for someone from CBSA and Julie was determined to find a representative.  Thankfully Tara was the right person at the right place, at the right time as she agreed to join the committee that day and has not looked back.

Early in Tara’s time on the committee, she met Keith Nutley of the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).  Along with being an avid Torch Runner, Keith is also a coach and volunteer with local SOO programming in Thunder Bay and surrounding areas.  Tara’s passion to support the athletes of SOO was obvious from the beginning and lead to Keith getting her involved in local programming.  This has lead to her involvement in 5 pin bowling, snowshoeing and softball programs.  Tara and Keith also travel outside of Thunder Bay to develop different sports in the surrounding areas.  These athletes have benefitted greatly from their efforts and some have even been able to take part in Major Games as a result.

When Thunder Bay put a committee together to bid for the 2020 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games, 2020, of course Tara stepped up to join.  The bid was successful and the Games were outstanding.  Tara was the lead for the National Final Leg in conjunction with the Games.  This meant coordinating a five day event for Torch Runners from all over Canada to travel around Thunder Bay and surrounding areas to help raise awareness for Special Olympics.  The event culminated with the national run team bringing the Flame Of Hope into the Opening Ceremony of the Games so the cauldron could be lit and the Games could begin.

The LETR Ontario program recognized Tara’s great work in 2018 when she was chosen to attend the LETR International Conference.  She was able to bring back a lot of great ideas to share with the Thunder Bay LETR committee to bolster their support of SOO.  In 2020, Tara was awarded with the Award of Honour, which is presented to Law Enforcement personnel and corporate sponsors who achieve a minimum of five years involvement with the Ontario Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics as fundraisers and/or organizers who have made an exemplary commitment.  An incredibly well deserved award for her great work.

Tara is always spreading the message of LETR and SOO, trying to bring more people on board to provide greater support for the movement.  As she recruits her fellow Law Enforcement personnel, she shares this message, “100%, get involved with the athletes.  Get out there, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have experience with the sport.  It is a perk of our job and it is absolutely going to be the best part of your day!  Once officers have had a chance to volunteer and create that connection, I’ve never had anyone not want to come back!”