It all started with the Special Olympics Ontario Provincial Winter Games Thunder Bay 2011 where Julie Tilbury of the Thunder Bay Police Service was appointed as the Games Manager. Since those very successful Games, Julie has been a constant in the world of Special Olympics and the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR). This has lead to many well-deserved awards and accolades to go along with the countless memories.
Julie’s first LETR event was the inaugural Thunder Bay Polar Plunge. She was introduced by Warren Giertuga and brought on to assist with the event. After managing the Games and helping with the Plunge, Julie’s LETR involvement continued to increase. She credits the great teamwork of the Thunder Bay law enforcement members as well as the engagement with the local Special Olympics athletes. “I love seeing how much Special Olympics means to the athletes and seeing how much the program supports them and their families.”
Through Julie’s 10 years of involvement, she credits Special Olympics with changing her life for the better. “Special Olympics is a magical organization that allows for the best in everyone to shine through. It is a movement that loudly celebrates the acceptance, inclusion and the ability that individuals with intellectual disabilities possess and then quietly goes about changing perception as well as the lives of the athletes, coaches, volunteers and families.”
The Special Olympics Canada National Winter Games, Thunder Bay 2020 this past February gave Julie the opportunity to come full circle with her Special Olympics and LETR journey. She took on the role of Vice Chair for these Games, which came with an incredible amount of work to upkeep the reputation Thunder Bay created during the Provincial Games. Not surprisingly, these Games were an incredible success once again due in large part to Julie’s selfless efforts. “At some point you will realize that the pure heart and pure joy that is so embedded in Special Olympics is something that you will crave.”
As a quiet, hardworking leader for the movement, Julie would not be one to bring up the awards and accolades that she has received for her work, but there are many of them. Those include the 2011 Ontario LETR Rising Flame Award, a 2016 Award of Honour Recipient and a 2019 inductee into the Special Olympics Ontario Hall of Fame.
Julie still finds time to help recruit law enforcement members to the Thunder Bay LETR team just as she was recruited back in 2011. “In this fast paced world, it is nice to do something for someone else. With Special Olympics the opportunities are endless and very much appreciated. The LETR family allows for connections with some of the most amazing people that unconditionally support each other, leading to friendship that will last a lifetime.”
There are not enough ways to say “Thank You” to Julie and the Thunder Bay LETR team for their contributions to Special Olympics locally as well as across the country.