Prior to his departure to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,The Observer had the opportunity to speak with McDonald's Olympic Kid, Carter Morrisons and his parents, Trevor and Lisa Morrison, all of Carlyle. Here is what they had to say prior to Carter's Olympic adventure:
Twelve-year-old Carter Morrison of Carlyle is not only attending the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil-he is one of only five Canadian ambassadors who have been chosen to represent Canada's Ronald McDonald Houses at the Games and one of nearly 100 McDonald's Olympic Kids-who will represent the charity there.
Carter will participate in the opening ceremonies of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, which will be seen live by 80,000 spectators in Rio's Maracana Stadium and billions of television viewers worldwide. He and his dad Trevor Morrison will also attend other Olympic events during their trip to Brazil.
“We're gone from August 2 to 8,” says Trevor. “We leave Regina on August 1st at 6 a.m. and we fly to Toronto from there. Then we have a layover of about seven or eight hours in Atlanta. We arrive in Brazil on the morning of August 2. We're still waiting for the final schedule, but there's a lot planned for Carter already.”
In addition to playing a part in the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympiad, Carter-accompanied by his dad-will spend time at Canada House in the Olympic Village where he'll rub shoulders with Canada's Olympic team, witness a medal presentation, and of course, take in some Olympic-level competition.
“We won't have the complete package with Carter's itinerary until we get there,” says Trevor. “But we'll be seeing some of the country and obviously, seeing some events. Carter's going to see a gold medal presentation and I'm trying to talk him into seeing a soccer game there, if we get the chance,” he laughs. “Because it's huge there and it would be quite an experience to see a soccer game in Brazil.”
“But whatever we do, it's going to blow away our expectations,” continues Trevor. “It's the first time in Olympic history that a Canadian company has designed Canada House for the Olympics. It's things like that-big and small-that will make this such a great experience. I feel like I've won the lottery.”
The trip allows each young person to be accompanied by one parent or guardian.
“Right away, I told Lisa (Carter's mom), she should go,” says Trevor. “But she said because it involved sports, that I should go. We were completely ready to buy another plane ticket so we could both go, but we found out that the security clearances around a lot of the places Carter be visiting will only allow one parent to be with him. That part's frustrating, because I'm the only family member going with Carter, but we're so grateful for this opportunity and most importantly, Ronald McDonald Houses, and everything they've done for us.”
The Morrison family first received word of Carter's trip this spring and it was a complete surprise to them, according to Trevor.
“Around the beginning of May, we had been away and we got a phone message from Ronald McDonald House Charities, telling us to phone them back right away, because they had some very exciting news for Carter,” says Trevor. “We thought that maybe the next time he was doctoring that they'd got him some tickets to a hockey game or something like that.”
“You can imagine how shocked we were when it was a chance to represent Canada's Ronald McDonald Houses at the Olympics.”
“They told us we had to let them know if we were interested as soon as possible,” continues Trevor. “We hung up the phone and thought 'Why are we even thinking about this?' So we called them right back and of course, we said 'yes.'”
“Carter is one of five kids from Canada and one of about 100 from throughout the world who will be representing Ronald McDonald Houses at the Olympics in Rio,” says Trevor. “A lot of the kids had to enter contests or otherwise compete for the chance to go, but Carter was asked to go without having to do any of that.”
Even though Carter was chosen outright to be an Olympic ambassador, his road to Rio hasn't been an easy one.
“Carter was born with achondroplasia,” says his mother, Lisa Morrison. “It's a medical condition that comes with complications. Since he was one, he's had close to 20 surgeries and with those surgeries, there are a lot of check-ups before and after. That means a lot of hospital admissions, medical tests and overnight stays.”
“We've stayed in Ronald McDonald Houses in all three prairie provinces,” adds Lisa. “In Saskatoon, Edmonton, and Winnipeg.”
“As a family, when your child's in the hospital, you're basically trying to navigate a new city and a new situation during a really stressful time,” adds Lisa. “Just getting to the hospital from a hotel and figuring out something like parking can be a real burden for the families-emotionally and financially.”
“All of those little things can really add up and add stress to an already stressful situation,” she says. “Ronald McDonald House really alleviates a lot of that stress and helps families to focus on their child, which is the most important thing.”
“Walking into the door of any Ronald McDonald House is like getting a big hug,” says Trevor. “We've seen the great things they do in three different provinces. The staff is great and the volunteers are so open, kind, and inviting.”
“Until you've experienced it from the inside, it's probably hard to imagine just how much they do. As a parent, being there just rests your mind from all of the other stuff,” he adds.
“That's why we feel so strongly about supporting Ronald McDonald House,” says Lisa, who is a supporter of Estevan's Red Shoe Walk, which helps fund Saskatchewan's Ronald McDonald House in Saskatoon.
“The Saskatchewan Ronald McDonald House doesn't receive any government funding and relies entirely on community support,” she says. “Supporting the house is so important to me. I really can't do enough for them.”
“I also want to get the awareness out there for other families,” adds Lisa. “We knew nothing about them and the work they do until we were in a situation where we received their help.”
“If there's a family out there who thinks they could benefit from Ronald McDonald House and have any questions, we'd be happy to talk to them,” says Trevor. “Carter is in a unique situation, because he's been staying at the Houses in three provinces for twelve years. And after the Olympics are over, he's looking at another surgery this fall.”
Carter says of staying at Ronald McDonald Houses: “They treat you really well, and it's just like home.”
“But I was really surprised about being chosen to go to the Olympics, too” adds Carter. “It's pretty cool. I'm looking forward to seeing all of the athletes who are the best in the world and the whole Olympic thing.”
“I just feel so lucky for this opportunity,” adds Trevor. “And obviously I'm a bit biased because Carter is my son. He's a very special person, and this shows there's a lot of other people who think so, too.”