As I started to write about Special Olympics, I thought back to the past 14 years of my involvement with Special Olympics. As my stepson reached an age where he realized that he had some physical limitations that “at times” eliminated him from participating in the regular sports arena, we decided to sign him up for Special Olympics. My husband took on a coaching role and I took on a Volunteer role. We didn’t know yet then, but Special Olympics did not only fill a part of my stepson’s world, but also a central part of our world as well.
Over the past several years, our Special Olympics athletes have been given the opportunity to participate in State and Regional Tournaments in both Softball and Basketball; and participate in a local Bowling Tournament. And while Special Olympics was organized with the premise of providing a sports arena to individuals with mental and physical disabilities – we rather think of it as an avenue for individuals with disabilities to show off their “ABILITIES.” Special Olympics allows for us to not only teach our participants how to play a sport, but it also provides physical fitness and wellness; it inspires traits such as commitment and responsibility; and it provides social interaction for our participants.
During this past year, Yankton Area Special Olympics took 5 softball teams to Brookings in September; had nearly 100 individuals participate in the local bowling tournament in November; took 6 basketball teams to Pierre in March; and took a soccer team to Sturgis in May.
Being a partner with United Way & Volunteer Services of Greater Yankton has allowed us to promote our programs locally and provides us with funding support. Without the support of United Way and the individuals who donate to their mission, we would not be able to provide our athletes with the opportunity to attend these out of town events, which many times are the highlight of their year. Costs can certainly add up in a hurry when you start looking at transportation, lodging and meals for up to 100 individuals for each event. The Yankton Area Special Olympics organization is grateful and appreciative of United Way and the community support.
I encourage everyone to come watch our athletes if you ever get a chance, or become involved as a volunteer if you get the chance. I promise you – our athletes will amaze you with their abilities, will charm you with their personalities, and will forever change your lives – just as they have ours!
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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Sheri Duke at 605-665-5386 at or Barb Clayton at 605-665-2783 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.