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Make a Difference Ontario

Ontario teacher making a difference

Former teacher takes student-athletes on a trip of a lifetime to Olympic Games in Rio

A local retired teacher is making dreams come true for 10 Windsor students as they head to the Olympics in Rio this weekend.

“(The) Olympics is every athlete’s dream as a kid, it’s the most amazing thing ever,” said 15-year-old Max Cooney, who will be flying out Saturday with the group.

Retired teacher Bill Van Wyck has been taking students to the Summer Olympics since 1979 and Rio will be his eighth. He funds most of the trips by borrowing money, students are asked to pay only $400 each. To him, the experience is worth every penny spent.

“When you can give kids that thrill, you say to yourself, ‘what else could I do?’ I have a car, I don’t need another car, my house is OK, there’s nothing better than to spend on these kids.”

The 85-year-old got in touch with local high schools and coaches, seeking nominations for student-athletes deserving of the trip. More than 40 applications were submitted and 10 lucky students were chosen.
The children selected are incredible athletes and are deeply involved in their communities, said Van Wyck. Some of them not only play sports themselves, but they also teach and coach younger kids.

Cooney, who plays soccer and runs track, said he was in shock when Van Wyck showed up at his doorstep telling him he qualified for a spot on the trip. He said it’s always been a dream for him to witness the Olympics.

Each morning or night of the trip, the kids and Van Wyck speak about the highlights of their day. Listening to their favourite moments is the most rewarding part, said Van Wyck.

After teaching for 35 years at local high schools, this is Van Wyck’s way of continuing to make a difference in kids’ lives.

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