Joe Philpott glad to spread positive message with the Scarf Project

Dave Kearsey
Published on March 5, 2016

Joe Philpott of Gander, the man who oversaw the Scarf Project for the 2016 Special Olympic Winter Games, poses for a photo with a scarf on at Blow Me Down Trails on Friday. Philpott is as an associate coach with Newfoundland and Labrador’s snowshoeing team.

©Dave Kearsey/The Western Star

The scarf you see everybody wearing around their necks at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games is a symbol of welcome for all those who support the athletes.

That’s how Gander native Joe Philpott summed up his feelings about the red, green and gold scarfs, created by people from all walks of life for the 1,000 coaches, athletes and supporters attending the national showcase of Special Olympians.

“Have a gift of welcome to give to the athletes, coaches and parents from across Canada,” Philpott said of what the scarf symbolizes.

Philpott, a retired school teacher and associate coach for Newfoundland and Labrador’s snowshoeing team at the games, volunteered to take on the role of organizing the Scarf Project for the 2016 games and host committee chairperson Len Moores was only to glad to have somebody lend a helping hand for the first time this province has hosted a national Special Olympics Games.

Philpott remembers receiving a scarf as a gift when he attended a previous Winter Games in St. Albert, Alta. He wanted to do his part to promote Special Olympics to people in nooks and crannies around the province and also spread some hype about the games coming in an effort to get the whole province involved in a small way.

People from across the province jumped on board once the project came to fruition back in 2014 when Gander Special Olympian Tyson Jesso knitted the first scarf of the games.

People from various groups and organizations began knitting the scarves that had to be a combination of the three chosen colours with the same dimensions, but in different patterns and designs. Those who knit scarves, a lot of them taking the time to write personal notes on them for the intended recipient, ranged from as young as 13 to senior citizens in their 90s.

It was a project that accomplished Philpott’s purposes. Yes, he wanted people to feel welcomed by receiving a scarf, but he also thought it was a good way to spread a positive message about the Special Olympics program and the special people who have embraced all that is good that comes from being a participant.

It went beyond the wildest imagination of Philpott or anybody else helping spread the word about the games because people just bought into it and got the needles going. In the end, there was 3,400 scarfs with some of them made by people as far away as San Diego and New York.

“We realized that the people who knit them did them for athletes, but we did way beyond the numbers we needed,” he said.

It was a popular item. It was a topic of conversation no matter what venue you checked out during the games. Joe can feel good knowing people got the message loud and clear this week.