By John Raffel It was a special day at Art Van Sports Complex on Saturday. It was Special Olympics Softball tournament day at the facility. Nick Caudle, manager of sports and training for Special Olympics Michigan, said there were about 25 teams and 350 athletes at the one-day event. “They’re mainly from the southwest region,” Caudle said. “But we do have one team from Ypsilanti.” Others were basically from the Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Newaygo, Kalkaska, Holland and Allegan areas. “Typically it’s four-team divisions,” he said. “We have a few three-team divisions and we have unified divisions which is athlete with or without disabilities playing together. We have one coach-pitch division and the rest are what we call our traditional divisions. If it’s three teams it’s a round robin. If you do four teams, winners and losers play after the first game.” A skills competition was also conducted. “We give medals based on skills of hitting, throwing, fielding and baserunning,” Caudle said. “This is the first time we’ve done it in Rockford but we do the regional every year. Last year, it was in Holland. The year before that it was in Kalamazoo. It’s a perfect facility for it.” It was a hot day but that didn’t spoil the event. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of fun,” Caudle said. “Everyone is here, they don’t really care about the medals. They’re here to play, meet some new people form new teams. They’re just being out there to have a good time.” Caudle said the Southwest Regional offices are in Byron Center.
Volunteers needed for event The Grand Rapids Jaycees will be hosting the 2011 Special Olympics Michigan State Basketball Finals and Skills Competition on Friday, March 25, and Saturday, March 26, at Rockford High School, Rockford Freshmen Campus, and Rockford North Middle School. More than 500 athletes from across the state will travel to Rockford to participate in this event. To make this event a success for the athletes, they need your help. Volunteers are needed for: Arts and Crafts Monitor (Saturday 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. and 12:00-4:00 p.m.) Awards (Saturday: 10:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m., 2:00-5:30 p.m.) Credentials Checker (Friday: 4:30-7:30 p.m.; Saturday: 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.) DJ (Friday: 4:30-7:30 p.m.) Experience is preferred). Dance Monitor (Friday: 7:00-10:00 p.m.) Dance Set-Up (Friday: 5:00-7:00 p.m.) Floater; Meal Server (Friday: 4:30-7:30 p.m.; Saturday: 10:45 a.m.-1:00 p.m.); Medical (Current First Aid/CPR certification required); Movie Room (Saturday: 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., 12:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.) Officials (MHSAA certification preferred) (Friday: 4:30-7:00 p.m.; Saturday: 8:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m., 12:30-5:00 p.m.) Scorekeeper (Experience preferred, but training is offered). Special Smiles (Saturday: 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., 12:00-3:00 p.m.) Timekeeper; Volunteer Registration (Friday: 4:00-6:00 p.m.; Saturday: 8:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., 12:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.) If you are interested in volunteering, please e-mail to email@example.com. Please include in your e-mail: 1) your name, 2) your preferred position, 3) the shift you are available and 4) your telephone number. Your contact information will not be used for any other purpose than this event. Please note that this event fills up very quickly and volunteer positions are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.
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.”
Local student Taylor Harding recently pledged Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity at Albion College. Tau Kappa Epsilon was founded at Illinois Wesleyan University in 1899. The “Tekes” support the Special Olympics. Harding is a sophomore at Albion College. He is the son of David and Megan Harding of Rockford and a graduate of Rockford High School. Albion College offers the unique blend of a classic liberal arts curriculum with a focus on professional preparation in law, medicine, education, management and the sciences.
The Michigan State Police (MSP) is pleased to announce that Sergeant Kevin Sweeney of the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division has been selected to represent the State of Michigan at the 2009 Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg for Special Olympics. The Torch Run Final Leg will begin in northern Idaho and cover multiple cities, towns and communities en route to the opening ceremonies of the World Winter Special Olympics in Nampa, Idaho on Feb. 7. The run will include 100 runners from around the world – one runner from each state and one from 50 other countries. Runners for the Final Leg are all current or retired law enforcement members who were selected based on their established dedication and commitment to Special Olympics and the Torch Run. Each runner must be able to maintain a pace of 10 minutes per mile for three miles, as well as have the stamina to run five miles over two or more intervals during the course of a day. Sweeney has been an active supporter of the Special Olympics and the Torch Run for 11 years. He enlisted with the MSP in 1995, and is a graduate of the 113 Trooper Recruit School. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University. He resides in Rockford with his wife, Teri, and their four children. Sweeney received the MSP Trooper of the Year Award in 2000 and the West Michigan Crime Practitioner of the Year Award in 2002. He is currently assigned to the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division where he serves as Citizen Corps Coordinator.