Oskaloosa Hosts 2013 Southeast Area Spring Special Oympics Print
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Written by Eduardo Zamarripa   
Saturday, 13 April 2013 12:46

Several Special Olympics track and field athletes have now qualified to participate in the State Summer Games. Last Saturday, the Penn Activity Center hosted the 2013 Southeast Area Spring Special Olympics. The first-place winners in each division qualified to participate in the track and field competition of the State Summer Games. But the event on Saturday featured much more than just competition.

Nineteen different teams, featuring a total of 226 olympians, participated in 20 events ranging from the tennis ball throw to the shot put to the wheel chair event.

Karen Hafner, the events coordinator for the Oskaloosa Area Chamber & Development group, helped organized the event. Hafner discussed what it means for her to help with the planning of the event.

"Well, without getting teary, there's some really neat moments here. The torch run today was a very neat moment. I think it's seeing people interact with each other that don't normally have to interact. Applauding, hugging kids, cheering them on, making them feel special today. This is their day," Hafner said.

After the inaugural torch run, the olympians went at it for approximately five hours. But the Special Olympics isn't just about earning the coveted blue ribbons. In between, the participants also had a chance to have lunch, dance and get to know members from different teams. For some, like Ross and Jennie, it even gave them a chance to get a head start on rehearsing for prom.

Ross and Jennie have both been attending the Special Olympics for 11 years, ever since they were eight years old. They can't remember if they've known each other five or six years. Two weeks ago, Jennie and Ross went to prom in Fairfield. Now, Ross is getting ready to attend Jennie's prom in Harmony.

But their friendship would never have been possible if it wasn't for the volunteers that help out with the event every year. Roughly 400 volunteers helped out on Saturday. Sophomore Janay Pritchett, a member of the William Penn University women's basketball team, talked about her favorite part of the event in her first time volunteering for it.

"Cheering them on, the (women's basketball) team we just make up random cheers and we get the players, the athletes excited to be here. I want to come back, even after I graduate, because the kids love it, the adults in it love it. I just like seeing them smile," Pritchett said.

This is the fourth straight year that Oskaloosa has hosted the event. The athletes that qualified for State will have a chance to take home the Gold in Ames on May 23 to May 25.

List of all the teams (number of participants)

Burlington (14)

Burlington Midwest Magic (17)

Fort Madison Schools (38)

Harmoney (6)

Keokuk Area Group Home (5)

Bridge Way (6)

Fairfield Pence Elementary (2)

Fairfield Middle School (4)

Fairfield Adults (16)

Fairfield Independent-Robinson (1)

Imagine the Possibilities (5)

Ottumwa Bulldogs (23)

Sigourney Schools (3)

Sigourney KCI (3)

Keokuk County Adults (4)

Crest Blue Jays (5)

Oskaloosa Special Olympics (37)

Oskaloosa High School (8)

Healthy Connections (27)