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Williams golden at Invitational Youth Games in Toronto

Darrell Williams shows off the gold medal he received at the 2019 Invitational Youth Games, hosted by Special Olympics in Toronto in mid-May.
Darrell Williams shows off the gold medal he received at the 2019 Invitational Youth Games, hosted by Special Olympics in Toronto in mid-May. - Darrell Cole

Amherst man part of gold-medal winning floor hockey team

AMHERST, N.S. —

Darrell Williams is a changed man, and now he’s a national champion.

The 55-year-old Amherst native now lives in New Glasgow won a gold medal in floor hockey at the 2019 Invitational Youth Games, hosted by Special Olympics in Toronto.

“You know it,” Williams said when asked if he is proud of his achievement. “Others on the team said they would be happy with silver or bronze, but I wanted the gold.”

Williams said he had eight goals during the event in mid-May.

Williams beamed as he showed off his gold medal to patrons at Breakfast at Brittney’s. Before going back to work in New Glasgow, Williams made several stops around town showing the medal to friends.

It’s an amazing transformation for a man many looked down upon several years ago. He struggled with alcohol, which sometimes got him into trouble. That is until he ended up in the hospital and came under the guidance of Jeff Bembridge.

“Darrell was hanging out on the streets and I’d see him all the time wandering around in all sorts of weather. I was really afraid some morning I was going to be out and find him frozen to death,” Bembridge said.

Bembridge, who owns Breakfast at Brittney’s and other Amherst businesses, sort of took Williams under his wing to help get him back on his feet again, but said it was Williams who made the decision to turn his life around.

“It was all Darrell,” he said. “You have to make the decision to quit drinking and he made the decision and he hasn’t had a drop since. That says a lot about him and his character. He wanted to change his life.”

Bembridge also credits Dr. Janneke Gradstein for being an advocate for Williams. She cared for him after he was admitted to the hospital for the umpteenth time and helped convince him that the road he was on would not end well.

“She fought for him,” Bembridge said. “She was determined to help him and she wouldn’t quit on him. The day I went to the hospital to pick him up I said we were going to go out to the bar to celebrate, she got upset with me until she realized I was just joking. She cared a lot about him and put a lot of effort into helping him.”

Williams comes back to Amherst several times a year and is looking to returning in September when he will celebrate his 56th birthday.

He lives in a group home in New Glasgow but is free to come and go as he pleases. At Summer Street, he helps with its catering business peeling vegetables and serving tables at events hosted at the New Glasgow centre.

Summer Street Industries has more than 200 program participants and offers a wide variety of programs and services to meet the needs of the diverse group of people it serves. It’s driven by the desire for an equal playing field where everyone is treated with fairness and respect – including adults with intellectual disabilities.

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