Meadville Tribune

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May 13, 2009

'Special' day for Special Olympics

Special athletes from the Meadville area participated in the 35th annual Special Olympics of Pennsylvania’s Crawford County Track and Field Meet on Wednesday — with more than 360 participants entering events and enjoying the day full of festivities at the Crawford County Fairgrounds.

The day began with the parade of athletes marching to the front of the grandstand, where Heather Clancy Young, CEO of Meadville Area Federal Credit Union, served as emcee, and Amy Swonger led the group in the national anthem. Bill Eastlick a graduating athlete from the Crawford County Career and Technical Center led the group in the Athlete Oath: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Then it was on to the fields of competition.

Participants could run or walk 50 or 100 meters, throw a softball or Turbo Jav for distance, or make attempts at the standing long jump. Each venue was organized by volunteers from numerous agencies and local businesses. Fun activities like a Frisbee throw and bean bag toss also were held — as was the popular Olympic Village where carnival-like games and fun was set up and run by Thurston House staff, local students and the Meadville Key Club.

Wednesday’s event would not have run so smoothly without support from local tool and die shops, schools, agencies and businesses that came out to help make the day special, event organizers said.

The 35th year was a special one for those who made banners — and each received an award. Many local school classrooms made banners to wish Crawford County Special Olympics a happy 35th birthday, and the awards were given in memory of the organization’s volunteer coordinator and special education teacher Beth Reichel. A faculty member at Linesville High School, Reichel passed away March 22.

The Special Olympics mission is “to provide year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuous opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate with their families, other Special Olympic athletes and the community,” local organizers pointed out.

The sports offered in Crawford County each year are many: bocce ball, volleyball, bowling, floor hockey, aquatics, basketball, long distance running or walking and athletics — and golf when a coach is available.

Work on the 2009 fall sports will start July 28 at 6 p.m. in The Arc Community Room on Chestnut Street in Meadville. Information on rules and practice times will be discussed, and parents and guardians of participants are encouraged to attend.

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