Sports is a seasonal occurrence for most people, but for the men and women who volunteer with the Special Olympics Indiana of Decatur County, athletics is a year-round state of mind.
Those Special Olympics helpers are the Greensburg Daily News Volunteers of the Week.
“Special Olympics Indiana provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in over 21 Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities,” said Lee VanHorn of Special Olympics Indiana of Decatur County. “Reaching nearly 12,000 athletes across Indiana, the organization receives no federal or state funds, it is not a United Way agency, and relies entirely on corporate, civil and individual donations.”
Special Olympics athletes recently returned from the main track and field competition of the year, held in Terre Haute. The competition featured athletes from 92 different counties, and a variety of events. Thirteen volunteers from Decatur County, coordinated by Jenny Grote and Myranda Hartwell, accompanied the 22 athletes.
The volunteers in the organization are mandated to receive certification by a state instructor to ensure they are trained properly.
“For the athletes, it’s a chance to show everyone that they can do it,” VanHorn said. “A lot of the athletes were denied access on their high school teams. Once you get out there and see them running, you see a lot of these kids could have participated in their schools. This gives them a chance to participate and work with other athletes; it gives them a peer mentor. The younger athletes model themselves after the older athletes who take them under their wing.”
This years athletes were: Jeanie Lynee Roberts, Emilie Pank, Beth Laws, Ann Smith, Carey Crities, Sheryl Stoneking, Carla Shook, Tommy Atkins, Ryan Hass, Brian Wolter, Tom Malone, Kathy Minor, Pam Findley, Cindy Taskey, Amy Owen, Jennifer Johanningman, Jessica Johanningman, Candy Reese, Christina Bates, Billie VanHorn, James Quick, and Bailey Mozingo.
Aside from track and field events, Special Olympics offers softball, bowling, basketball and a golfing tournament.
VanHorn noted that many of the volunteers are very active in other organizations as well, but Special Olympics is a very high priority.
“For the volunteers, I know with me, I can have the worst day in the world, my house can burn down, my car can blow up, but when I get on the field with those athletes all of that goes away,” he said. “I forget about all of it. It gives you a sense that you’re doing something, you’re helping people - giving them a chance where society won’t let them have a chance.”
The Special Olympics volunteers were Jenny Grote, Myranda Hartwell, Dorothy Gasper, Lee VanHorn, Linda Mozingo, Mary Malone, Randy Malone, Lisa McFarland, Amy Keihn, Sharon Sweezey, Helen Lewis, Bob Richardson, and Velma Miles.
VanHorn encouraged new people to get involved with the program.
“If anyone wants to join, or just come out and cheer them on, many of our events are local,” he said.
For more information about Special Olympics Indiana, visit www.soindiana.org.
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