Motionball fundraiser for Special Olympics
Credit: Special Olympics BC

Volunteers cheer athletes on as they compete at Motionball’s recent Marathon of Sport in Burnaby

It’s on: Darryl Reuter and Paul Etherington have pledged that the first to raise $50,000 for Special Olympics will see the other inked with their name

Two people from opposite ends of the country are going toe-to-toe in a tattoo wager to raise money for Special Olympics.

Paul Etherington, co-founder and chair of Toronto-based sports nonprofit Motionball, and Kelowna realtor Darryl Reuter agreed that the first to hit $50,000 will have their name tattooed on the other’s body.

“The only winner is the Special Olympics athletes because we’re raising more money, we’re creating more awareness,” says Etheringon, who is also vice-president of insurance planning firm Etherington Generations. “I tip my cap to Darryl, although I have to tell you I have zero interest in getting his name on my body.”

This isn’t the first time one of them has offered to get inked for Special Olympics. In 2019, Reuter let his immediate circle know that he’d have a “fire-breathing unicorn” tattooed on his back if he raised $10,000 for Motionball’s Marathon of Sport.

After exceeding that goal by $5,000, he kept his promise. “I just decided that year for Motionball, I wanted to make a difference and put my stamp on it.”

Marathon of Sport, taking place in 15 Canadian cities this year, brings together athletes of all abilities. Participants raising funds have the option to join or start a standard or corporate team, or to join as an individual, with all proceeds going directly to the Special Olympics Canada Foundation.

Motionball Marathon of Sport

Co-founders Etherington and his two brothers followed in their father’s footsteps after settling into their careers in the early 2000s. Brian Etherington, former chair of the Special Olympics Canada Foundation, was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2004 for his work on behalf of athletes with intellectual disabilities.

“For some reason—and I get it now—the athletes spoke to him,” the younger Etherington says. “You see the compassion, the intensity. They are just incredible people who are looking for the same opportunities.”

Since Motionball launched in 2002, it’s raised more than $15 million for Special Olympics, Etherington says. The national nonprofit also holds MotionballU events at almost 30 partner universities, including SFU, Thompson Rivers University, Trinity Western University and UBC Okanagan.

This past weekend, a Marathon of Sport took place in Burnaby, where participants could choose from athletic stations such as volleyball, soccer, bocce and ladder ball.

“It brings community, it brings everyone together; it doesn’t matter what abilities or disabilities you have,” says Preet Pall, a Motionball participant for eight years. “We are all just friends that come together,” adds the associate with Vancouver-based employee benefits specialist Montridge Advisory Group.

The event also emphasized avoiding any terms that can come off as hurtful to those with developmental disabilities. That initiative, under the hashtag #NoGoodWay, has seen almost 18,000 people pledge to stop using the R-word.

“Motionball’s mission is to educate, integrate and celebrate,” says volunteer event director Mike McClenahan, Port Coquitlam–based managing partner at employee benefits administrator Benefits by Design.

The two rivals in the tattoo battle will get their crack at the Marathon of Sport in the next two weeks. Reuter participates in a Kelowna event this Saturday, September 18, while Etherington will join a Toronto gathering on September 25.