He holds out his hand and welcomes a guest into his family’s Stratford home. On the kitchen table there are two framed awards, the latest additions to a career that started many years ago and taken him to provincial, national and international competitions.
He became the first Special Olympian inducted into the four-year-old Maritime Sport Hall of Fame during a ceremony Wednesday in Bedford, N.S.
Morris, 48, has won plenty of medals, as a storage chest in his room can attest, but it is way more than wins and losses he has received from, and given back to, the sport.
“It changed his life,” his mother Judy said. “It gave him a belief in himself. It gave him confidence. . . It opened so many doors, some we didn't even know existed.”
Michael was diagnosed with being mentally challenged when he was two years old. He also had difficulty with his legs early in his life and didn't walk entirely on his own until he was between five and six years old.
However, he was very active with his family growing up.
About 15 years ago, he connected with Dave Morrow and the two did activities together. It was Morrow, who suggested Special Olympics to the Morris family.
“That was the beginning of a terrific story,” Judy said Friday. “Dave is still with us. He’s part of the family.”
Michael joined Special Olympics in 2002, taking part in cross-country skiing. He has earned seven medals for Team P.E.I. while attending three Canadian Winter Games.
During two trips to the World Winter Games, he has brought home five medals.
He has also been involved with 5 pin bowling, bocce ball, golf and track and field.
“Golf,” he replies with a glowing smile.
He has not made every team he tried out for, but even when Michael wasn’t selected he was there at the airport to wish the athletes well when they departed.
“We have a number of values within Special Olympics, and Michael is certainly a great representative of all of them,” said Matthew McNally, program director. “Michael and his family are wonderful ambassadors to the sport world, but also in our Special Olympics movement, and I can’t think of a better name to represent the first induction.”
Judy received the call from a hall director in late May.
“I am still speechless,” she said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to see for Special Olympics.”
For her, it was not about her son being recognized.
“I would have been just smiling and just as teared up if it had been another skier . . . just that Special Olympics has been included,” Judy said.
There were 16 people from the Island there to watch the ceremony and support Michael, who sat with the other inductees at the front of the room.
“When he was shaking their hands there was no difference,” Judy said. “He wasn’t special. He was just one of them.”
And, she said, it wasn’t just Michael being recognized, but also all the coaches, staff and volunteers who make the events possible.
McNally has a special memory of watching Michael compete in cross-country skiing he won’t forget.
He was at the finish line in Corner Brook, N.L., in 2016 as Michael was on the
one-kilometre course. It had rained a day earlier and the track was faster than earlier in the week.
“He just had this great big smile because he was travelling at a speed that was faster than any of his preliminary races,” he recalled. “He came through the finish line so fast that it was tough to stop, so we locked into a hug and he was just full of laughter with what was going on. It was just a great moment. He ended up finishing first in that race, but that totally didn't matter in the moment, he was just so thrilled to have given his best effort.”
Need to know
Who – A Stratford resident who competes in Special Olympics.
The news – Morris was inducted into the Maritime Sports Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
Medals – Morris has won medals at provincial, national and international events in cross-country skiing. His list of achievements includes winning two silver medals at the World Winter Games in Japan in 2005 and a silver and two bronze medals in Idaho in 2009.
Did you know? Michael turns 49 on June 28 and he will have a meet-and-greet at the event room at the Sobeys in Stratford on June 25, 2-4 p.m.
History – This is the fourth class of the Maritime Sports Hall of Fame. This year’s class included Phil Doiron, Curtis Wayne Coward, Tom McClusky, Paul Mason, the Glace Bay Colonels baseball team, the Dartmouth Marine Union Workers fastball/softball and the Cole Harbor Cardinals baseball team. Golfer Lorie Kane and hockey player Forbes Kennedy have also been inducted, representing Prince Edward Island.
Online – maritimesporthalloffame.com