Special Olympics annual summer games will be held in Stevens Point
Approximately 1,400 athletes from across Wisconsin will compete in swimming, track and field, soccer and powerlifting at the 2017 State Summer Games Thursday, June 8, through Saturday, June 10, at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Special Olympics Wisconsin’s largest annual sports event officially begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday with a Parade of Athletes. Fans, supporters, volunteers and law enforcement officers will welcome athletes as they walk into UWSP’s Colman Track.
At 7 p.m., emcee Kate Markgraf, an Olympic gold medalist, FIFA World Cup champion and current ESPN soccer analyst, will kick off the Opening Ceremony by recognizing the athletes for their accomplishments.
The two newest members of the Special Olympics Wisconsin’s illustrious Hall of Fame will also be announced and honored during the second annual Dennis H. Alldridge Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Portions of the Opening Ceremony will be broadcast live on Facebook Live for the first.
“It’s that exciting time of year again and we can’t wait to get to Stevens Point to see these amazing athletes from all over the state in action. They’ve been training all year for this weekend and so many volunteers and staff have been diligently working toward it. The competition and camaraderie, along with the energy throughout the Games, should be extraordinary,” said Kathleen Roach, president and CEO of Special Olympics Wisconsin.
“We’re also really thrilled to have gold medalist and world champion soccer star Kate Markgraf emcee our Opening Ceremony. That will be very exciting for the athletes and fans in attendance and it’ll be great motivation for the athletes to go out and do their best,” Roach said.
Competitions will be held Friday, June 9, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Saturday, June 10, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. There will be 1,377 athletes competing in 62 events in the four sports categories.
There will also be 10 Unified teams competing in the 4×100 meter relay and the 4×100 meter walking relay. Unified teams consist of athletes with intellectual disabilities teamed up with partners without intellectual disabilities.
More than 100 volunteer medical professionals will be on campus to provide free dental, vision, fitness and hearing screenings to Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes as part of Special Olympics Healthy Athletes. Through the Healthy Athletes program, Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes receive free screenings in a fun, welcoming environment that removes the anxiety and fear individuals with ID often experience when faced with a visit to the doctor or dentist.
Longtime running coach for Stevens Point Area High School Donn Behnke will also be speak during the Opening Ceremony.
Behnke authored the book “The Animal Keepers,” a true story of his 1985 state champion cross country team that was a pioneer in Unified Sports in that it featured an athlete with an intellectual disability. Special Olympics Wisconsin and the city of Stevens Point have a long and storied history together.
This will be the 38th year the Summer Games will be held at UWSP.
“We get a chance to welcome athletes from all over the state to our wonderful city. It’s our opportunity to show everyone our hospitality and introduce them to Stevens Point. Aside from the economic impact that Special Olympics has, it is more about opening our community and sharing what we enjoy every day,” said Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza.
Approximately 700 volunteers are needed to escort athletes to events, present awards and more at the Summer Games. Volunteer and dedicate your time to be a part of something truly special. To sign up, visit SpecialOlympicsWisconsin.org/ summer.
“Having Special Olympics here provides not only a central location for the participants and their families, but our community has always stepped up with the hundreds of volunteers that help pull this off. They’re always looking for more help and it may be the most rewarding thing you ever do,” Wiza said.
For more information, visit SpecialOlympicsWisconsin.org or call 800-552-1324.