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Monday, April 25, 2011

Special Olympics athletes to compete in largest area event of the year; Illinois – the 2011 Spring Games - April 25, 2011 Daily Republican Register

Special Olympics athletes to compete in largest area event of the year – the 2011 Spring Games : April 25, 2011

NORRIS CITY - Families, volunteers and spectators will be cheering on runners, shot-putters and other athletes as they compete in the largest area event of the year for Special Olympics Illinois Southeastern/Area 14.

The 28th annual Spring Games take place on Friday, May 6, at Mt. Vernon Township High School. The public is invited to watch the competition and experience the joy of achievement by Special Olympics athletes.

Area 14 is composed of Edwards, Gallatin, Jefferson, Hamilton, Hardin, Marion, Pope, Saline, Wabash, Wayne and White counties.

At the Area 14 Spring Games, approximately 345 athletes are expected to compete in athletics (track & field), the most popular sport offered by Special Olympics Illinois. The event begins at 9:45 a.m. with Opening Ceremonies. All athletes will march in the Parade of Athletes and recite the Special Olympics oath: "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

The running of the torch with the "Flame of Hope" and the lighting of the cauldron signifies the opening of the games. Special Olympics Torch Runners will be accompanied by members of the Mt. Vernon Police Department. Competition follows immediately and will conclude around 2 p.m.

Athletes will compete in the 50- , 100- , 200- , 400 and 800-meter runs, Standing and Running Long jumps, Shot, Tennis and Softball throw, High jump, 100- , 400- and 800-meter race walks as well as Wheelchair Competitions and Assisted Races.

Athletes compete in divisions by gender and ability levels.

The presenting sponsor for the Special Olympics Illinois Southeastern Illinois/Area 14 Spring Games is the Eugene C. Kieffer Charitable Organization (ECKCO). Gold medal sponsors are Knights of Columbus and Jefferson County 708 Mental Health Board. The silver medal sponsor is the Carl L. Schweinfurth Foundation and bronze medal sponsors for the 2011 Games are AMVETS Fifth Division and the Autism Support Group of Harrisburg.

To compete in the Special Olympics Illinois Area Spring Games, athletes must train for eight weeks. Athletes who win a gold medal at these Area games qualify to compete in the Special Olympics Illinois State Summer Games, to be held June 10-12 on the campus of Illinois State University in Normal. More than 3,500 athletes from around the state are expected to compete in Summer Games.

Special Olympics Area Director Rhonda Knight said there is still a great need for additional volunteers for the Games on May 6.

"We rely on volunteers to help run every aspect of Spring Games," said Knight. "Unfortunately, many of the high schools outside of Mt. Vernon can no longer send their students to volunteer with us due to very tight budgets and the high cost of fuel. Once you realize how much the athletes look forward to the friendship and encouragement they receive from the volunteers, then you too, will want to be a part of this exciting day."

The Law Enforcement Torch Run and Illinois Knights of Columbus are official partners of Special Olympics Illinois.

Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit organization offering year-round training and competition in 19 sports for nearly 21,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities, and more than 6,000 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics promotes acceptance for all and changes lives by empowering people with intellectual disabilities to realize their full potential in sports and in life.

Special Olympics programs enhance physical fitness, motor skills, self-confidence and social skills, and encourage family and community support. Those interested in learning more about Special Olympics Illinois, volunteering or providing financial support to help make Special Olympics programs possible, should contact a local Special Olympics agency or the Special Olympics Illinois Area.

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