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'Welcome Home Evan' tonight at the Memorial Arena

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The Town of Tillsonburg will be hosting a 'Welcome Home' celebration for Olympian Evan Van Moerkerke on Thursday, August 25th, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Tillsonburg Community Centre (relocated from the Lake Lisgar Water Park).

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UPDATE: Due to weather, Evan's 'Welcome Home' celebration will be at the Memorial Arena tonight rather than the outdoor water park.

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"That'll be fun," said Van Moerkerke, who will be back in town Wednesday, briefly, before returning for his final year at the University of Guelph. "Just to meet everyone... a little celebration."

Things haven't changed since coming home, he said.

"It's not too different," he smiled. "I was back in the field the day after - kind of back to normal life. I'm still the same person I was when I left, I guess."

Tillsonburg Mayor Stephen Molnar said he was looking forward to Van Moerkerke's recognition night.

"It's a way for the community to recognize a young local area athlete who is continuing both his education and his career, and to say congratulations and thank you," said Molnar, noting there was an outpouring of passion as Canadians cheered on their athletes - including Van Moerkerke - in Rio de Janeiro.

"It was something everyone had in common."

Thursday's Welcome Home Celebration will be a family-oriented event, he said, and free.

Free water park passes will be given to children in attendance.

RBC, a longtime Olympic supporter, is co-sponsoring the event in a show of support for a local Olympic athlete who finished seventh overall in the 4x100m men's swimming relay. The Tillsonburg Kinsmen Club will volunteer their services to provide food (hot dogs and corn on the cob) and beverages.

"It's a very simple program, very relaxed," said Molnar. "No pressure, no expectations, just a way for our community to come together and recognize one of the young people that grew up in our pools, continues to work in the area on his off hours, continues to train, and is going back to further his education... I think these are all emblematic of what we hope all youth would be, in whatever their endeavors are.

"It's just a way for the town to say thank you," he summed up.

Tillsonburg also had an Olympic connection with Dennis Fairall, University of Windsor track and field coach who coached Melissa Bishop, and Jay Triano, who just missed going to Rio as coach of the Canadian men's basketball team.

cabbott@postmedia.com

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