10022958Tony Carter and his high school teacher from 1998-2001, Susan Soules, who drove down to Vancouver from 100 Mile House to watch him compete in the 2014 Special Olympics on the B.C. soccer team.


By Yvonne Zacharias, Vancouver Sun July 11, 2014

When school teacher Susan Soules surveyed the soccer field at the Special Olympics Summer Games at the University of B.C. Friday, she spotted No. 6 on the B.C. team. To her, he was no ordinary player.

Instead, Tony Carter, 32, “is an angel on my shoulder.”

Soules and Carter go back to 1998, when she was a special-education teacher at a high school in 100 Mile House.

Carter, who had moved to the community in the south Cariboo in central B.C. from Mission with his alcoholic mother, landed in Soule’s classroom when he was in Grade 10. She taught this very special student with fetal alcohol syndrome for three years.

The two formed a bond that remains strong. So strong that Soules drove for five hours with her two teenage daughters to Vancouver from 100 Mile House to watch Carter compete in the games.

Both Soules and Carter became choked up when trying to describe what the other means to them.

From the start, Soules was touched by Carter’s tough upbringing. In Mission, a neighbour had looked out for him, giving him food and buying him some clothes. When his mother relocated to the 100 Mile House area, she lived in a little trailer with no transportation. Carter took the bus to school. He used to gather his mother’s empties and trade them in for much needed cash.

Despite his hardscrabble existence, Soules was struck by her student’s unflagging desire to do his best.

“He is like a little brother,” she said. “He has always had a piece of my heart because he has had such a trying time. Yet he has always been able to rise above that. He always looks on the bright side of things.”

Eventually, Soules helped him move back to Mission, where he now lives with a good family and has a girlfriend, and a job cleaning the downtown streets several days a week.

“He has never looked back,” said Soules.

Every summer since then, Carter has returned to visit Soules who has a busy life with a partner, her two daughters, two-and-a-half-year-old twin boys and her job as a kindergarten teacher.

On those visits to 100 Mile House, Carter also made a point of visiting his mother, helping her out however he could.

Last fall, his mother died. Soules said it was very hard on Carter.

It was a moment of pure joy when Soules and Carter met on the soccer field Friday after B.C.’s 2-0 win over Ontario in the Special Olympics, which are for intellectually challenged athletes like Carter.

The fact that he was here playing his heart out on this glorious summer day was a measure of just how far he has come. Carter had practised for months for it, drawing praise from his coach, John Scholtes.

And the fact that Soules came “means a lot to me,” said Carter.

Besides the summer visits, the teacher and her former pupil talk on the phone once a week and text each other every day. And because sports mean so much to Carter, Soules buys him a good pair of running shoes every year.

He said he loves going to 100 Mile House to visit her. “If she needs my help, I am always willing to help her.”

Always there, an angel on her shoulder.



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