Very special athletes ended this year’s Special Olympics program in Rockford with a day of competition and celebration recently. For the first time, students held their annual event at the Wolverine World Wide YMCA in Belmont. Any student with an educational disability in grades kindergarten through eighth grade can participate. Athletes work to develop their skills and compete in walking or running events (50m / 100m / 200m dash), throwing events (softball and Frisbee toss), and jumping events (standing and running long jump). They have opportunities to build athletic, as well as social skills with other RAM’er (Rockford Athletes in Motion) athletes and coaches.
Practices were held every Monday in March and April at the YMCA. On April 27, the YMCA hosted the “Rockford Tournament of Champions,” where the athletes competed in front of family and friends for medals, trophies, and prizes. Volunteer parents and teachers, as well as middle and high school students, help facilitate the practices. On May 2, they competed with other schools from the area in the Special Olympic Regional Games at Calvin College.
There is no cost for participation. All financial support is provided through donations including PTO’s and local businesses. The 2009 sponsors included the PTO’s at Parkside, Roguewood, Crestwood, Meadowridge, Valley View and Lakes Elementary schools. Local businesses who contributed included: D & W Food Market, Damn Dogs, Advanced Aquarium, Rockford Lanes, Marinades, the Corner Bar, Right up Your Alley, Aunt Candy’s Toy Co., Herman’s Boy, Rudy Kazoody’s, and many private sponsors.
Tim and Jen Vandelen were proud to see their son Drew, an eight-year-old student who was at Roguewood this last school year, compete. “It has been a great outlet for him. It’s wonderful for him to be in a place where he is successful.”