Cindy LaBrecque

Local rhythmic gymnast wins five medals at Special Olympics Canada 2018 Summer Games



By Ron Giofu


Another local athlete has brought home medals from the Special Olympics Canada 2018 Summer Games.

Celine LaBrecque, 21, brought home five bronze medals in rhythmic gymnastics from the competition held in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. It was the same games where Kyle Spearing competed and brought home a bronze medal in golf.

Celine won bronze in each of her routines – ball, hoop, ribbon and clubs – as well as a bronze medal overall.

“I was actually very proud because I didn’t think I was going to win anything,” said Celine. “It was a tough competition.”

Celine’s mother Cindy was one of the coaches for Team Ontario for the rhythmic gymnastics competition. She said Celine received new routines only two years ago.

Celine said she felt good coming off of the floor from all of her routines, adding that having her mother as one of the coaches made her feel better. Cindy said it was an honour to be chosen as one of the coaches.

“When I get to a competition, my mom just says to pretend it’s a practice,” said Celine.

Celine LaBrecque (left) of Amherstburg captured five bronze medals in rhythmic gymnastics at the recent Special Olympics Canada 2018 Summer Games. Her mother Cindy (right) was also a coach with the rhythmic gymnastics team.

Cindy said of the 15 rhythmic gymnasts from Ontario, they brought home 54 medals. She noted the games were at the “beautiful campus” of Saint Francis Xavier University and that the people of Antigonish showed tremendous hospitality to all Special Olympians.

“People would literally stop their cars and let us cross the street,” said Cindy, adding that others would give coaches money in grocery stores to buy treats for the athletes.

“It was a little overwhelming,” said Cindy. “I’ve never seen anything like that in the country.”

Celine said she practices twice per week, with many practices during the school year at Sandwich West Public School in LaSalle with others being at Heritage Park Alliance Church. As for her future plans, Celine said she will “go to competitions and see where I sit and go from there.”
Cindy added the next provincial qualifier is in 2019.

“She’s going to go back and see how she does and take it from there,” said Cindy.

Celine admitted she had been contemplating retirement from the sport but when she picks up the equipment, she realizes she is not ready for that yet.

“That feeling I get (upon picking up the equipment), I’m not ready to put it down yet,” said Celine.

Cindy added that both herself and father Bob are very proud of Celine’s latest accomplishments. Counting the most recent games, Celine estimates her overall medal total to be over 60.

“We were very proud to see how she pulled it together and succeeded,” said Cindy. “It was a great games.”

Cindy added that Celine has benefited greatly from Special Olympics.

“It’s been a positive influence on Celine’s life,” said Cindy. “This is the place where she grew friendships. This is the place where she grew a social life. It’s really helped her life.”

Celine, who starts the CICE program at St. Clair College this week, added she is grateful to all who have helped her along the way.

“I would like to thank all the coaches and my mom,” she said.


Local foster parents receive lifetime achievement award



By Ron Giofu


Being foster parents is just a way of life for Bob and Cindy LaBrecque.

The local couple was honoured recently with a lifetime achievement award from the Foster Parents Society of Ontario (FPSO). The FPSO is made up of representation from the 52 Children’s Aid Society (CAS) locations across Ontario.

Bob said they had nothing to do with the nomination, pointing out they didn’t even know they were nominated until after they had won.

“We were very, very humbled and pleased to be nominated and win,” he said, noting it was a CAS worker who told them the local agency had nominated them.

Bob and Cindy LaBrecque were recently honoured by the Foster Parents Society of Ontario (FPSO) with a lifetime achievement award. They have been foster parents to over 200 children over the last 33 years.

Bob and Cindy LaBrecque were recently honoured by the Foster Parents Society of Ontario (FPSO) with a lifetime achievement award. They have been foster parents to over 200 children over the last 33 years.

The LaBrecques are high school sweethearts who got married after graduating college. They opened a group home for adults with special needs in Fredericton, New Brunswick immediately after graduation but decided a few months later that becoming foster parents was the direction they were more comfortable with.

A 33-year journey then ensued, which has included two stops in New Brunswick, Sudbury, Nova Scotia before coming to Windsor-Essex County in 1989.

“We’ve always specialized in providing foster care for kids with significant medical issues, significant behavioral issues and developmental issues,” he said. “That is our skillset and comfort level.”

Both have grown up in environments where they have seen their parents help others. Cindy said her parents would take in other children with disabilities so she has always had the spirit to give back in her life.

“My mom and dad fostered when it wasn’t called fostering,” said Cindy. “We’ve always had people coming into our homes.”

Cindy added her and Bob always knew they wanted to foster.

“We had foster children before our own children,” she said.

The LaBrecques have been foster parents to roughly 200 children over the 33 years. Some stayed for as short of a period as one day while others stayed for several years. Some foster children come with the goal of trying to reunite them with their birth parents while others see the foster parents essentially become their actual parents and are longer-term placements

“We’ve really enjoyed going with a kid through their whole journey,” said Bob.

Sometimes they have had to deal with tragedy – two foster children died due to illness – but there has been plenty of joy as well.

One of the foster children they currently care for is Celine, who is now a multiple gold medal winning rhythmic gymnast at Special Olympics. She came to the LaBrecques when she was six-years-old and is now 18-years-old.

“She’s our family,” said Cindy. “She’s our daughter. She changed her name to our last name. She insisted.”

The couple’s two biological children – Tyler and Rochelle – have grown up around foster siblings and are still helping out when they can. The LaBrecques have become accustomed to having a busy household and credit any success they have had as foster parents on the people that surround them, including social workers, caregivers and the children themselves.

“Us winning this (lifetime achievement) award is not about us,” said Bob. “We have a team of people that make us successful.”

Their busy lives were evident the night they received their award in Niagara Falls. The couple had to go to Collingwood for a function relating to Bob’s company, go to Niagara Falls for the award ceremony, and then go back to Collingwood.

The LaBrecques said that while some might question their choice of lifestyle, they wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“I can’t imagine doing anything else the last 33 years,” said Bob.