Megan Hounsell, after winning five medals at the 2018 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in August, showed the true meaning of sportsmanship and what the Special Olympics is all about, after making a remarkable gesture of kindness towards another member of Team NL.
Gold Medal Winner
Competing in rhythmic gymnastics, Hounsell won gold in overall, hoop, ball and ribbon, and a silver in rope at the Games, which took place in Antigonish, Nova Scotia July 31 to August 4. Before heading for home, Hounsell gave one of her gold medals to another participant who had not placed in the top three. Why give away something she had worked so hard for? It made her feel happy, Hounsell said, knowing how delighted it made her friend feel.
“I have plenty of medals home and I know when she came home, she was showing her medal to her friends, so that was so nice,” the 28-year-old said, displaying genuine kindness in competitive sports, a traditionally cut-throat area.
Not only skilled in human compassion and rhythmic gymnastics, Hounsell also participates in Special Olympics swimming and bowling events. Special Olympics helps athletes be the best they can be. Hounsell shared.
This year’s crop of local athletes are proving that they are among the best, with Newfoundland and Labrador athletes bringing home a whopping 61 medals (18 gold, 26 silver and 17 bronze) from the 2018 Games. Her ability to train hard and work hard extends to her professional life.Hounsell has been working at Coffee Matters for over five years now.
Business owner Scott Hillyer expressed pride regarding Megan’s accomplishments at work, and in sports – a sentiment shared by her family and friends. Hillyer spoke of Hounsell’s remarkable work ethic, and how she has continually improved throughout her five years with the company. Initially, Hounsell’s main duties were helping out in the store’s bakery at the Coffee Matters on Military Road in St. John’s.
Great with Customers
Hounsell took on more duties, and more responsibilities, he said, when the Coffee Matters opened a location in Mount Pearl, Hounsell’s hometown.
She made the natural transition into the new store. That was about three years ago, Hillyer said. “Megan knew that, with the move, her job would change. It would not be a baking position anymore, but we reassured her that we knew she could do what we needed her to do… And we saw a big change in Megan. She did really well with our customers.”
Today, Hounsell’s duties cover everything from cleaning tables, to serving food, to making sandwiches – the latter thanks to Chef Abdellatif Akayous. “If you had asked Megan to make sandwiches two years ago, she would have shied away from it,” Hillyer said. “But, Chef believed in her… and everything that we have ever asked Megan to do, she has met the challenge,” he added.
Hillyer’s support of Megan and other clients of the Vera Perlin Society has been ongoing for almost three decades.
His business also helps clients from Visions Employment – a non-profit organization that offers employment supports and services for adults and high school students with intellectual disabilities. Hillyer said it’s important to treat employees with disabilities the same as all other workers. Encouraging staff goes a long way, he said.
Hillyer promotes employees who he has hired through special employment-support programs to other businesses, touting their abilities rather than their disabilities. He celebrates rather than segregates his employees. “When you have an employee who goes above and beyond not only at work but in their personal life, you need to recognize that,” Hillyer said, glancing towards an in-store display of balloons and congratulatory messages, celebrating Hounsell’s tremendous accomplishments at the Games on her first day back at work.
During the interview at the coffee shop, Megan also looked over at the homage to her remarkable efforts.
A Fulfilling Life
“I just love working here. There are no words to say how much I like it,” she said. Hounsell leads a fulfilling life thanks to her job and her participation in Special Olympics. Although she’s participated in three previous national Games, she said, competing in the Games in Antigonish was a once in a lifetime experience.
An experience to travel, participate in a sport you enjoy and meet new friends, she said.“I just love interacting with all the other kids. I love them and they love me. And that’s what I love about Special Olympics,” Hounsell said.