More than 1,500 competitors will descend on Towson University this weekend, June 9-11, for the 2017 Special Olympics Maryland Summer Games.
The Special Olympics athletes will represent all ages and skill levels and will come from 18 county programs all over the state of Maryland, along with 250 coaches and 900 volunteers. They will compete in swimming, softball, track and field, cheerleading, and bocce.
The 2017 Special Olympics Maryland Summer Games will showcase the abilities of athletes with intellectual disabilities, promote the ideals of acceptance and inclusion through sport, and celebrate the transformative power of Special Olympics," a statement on the organization's web site said. "Our Core purpose is, through sport, creating a world where opportunity is not limited by disability."
Special Olympics Maryland serves 6,500 athletes with developmental disabilities at athletic programs and events all year long. The organization provides athletic training for people of all skill levels, ultimately encouraging growth in physical fitness, courage, social skills, and self-confidence.
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“Just seeing their joy, their skill development throughout the year and throughout the years as they continue to grow with their sport (is special),” Steve Bennett, senior director of competition and coach development with Special Olympics Maryland, told WBALTV11
Beginning with children at the age of two and extending all the way up to athletes in their 90s, the Special Olympics program is free to participants. Though the summer games only features competitions in five sports, the organization also offers training and competitions in alpine skiing, basketball, bowling, cycling, football, golf, kayaking, powerlifting, tennis, and more. They hold 12 state-level competitions and multiple fundraisers each year.
“Special Olympics has opened up the doors for both of my sons,” Lisa Green, a mother of two SOMD athletes, said. “You see the determination that they have. It's inspiring. Even if they don't win, they're brave in that attempt, and they are just stupendous.”
According to the SOMD site, "Studies have shown that participation in Special Olympics results in improved health and well-being ... even an increase in work skills and the ability to contribute to the community. We see those same results at every practice, qualifier and competition we host – when SOMD athletes are given the opportunity to excel, it doesn’t matter what the final score is, the end result is always a victory."
For more information, visit the SOMD website
Do you know somebody who has participated in Special Olympics? What a great organization! Tell us your experience in the comments!
All photos courtesy of SOMD (web site and Facebook)