Special Olympics Wisconsin kicks off 50th annual state games
By Joe Bachman
STEVENS POINT — In a milestone, the 50th Wisconsin Special Olympics State Games kicked off on Thursday night at the UW-Stevens Point athletic fields.
Nearly 1,500 special Olympics athletes from across the state participate in the annual games, as opening ceremonies were held to hundreds in attendance. The three-day event will feature the best in these athletes, who will undoubtedly inspire everyone with their guts and determination through the weekend.
For Attorney General Brad Schimel, inspiration took hold of him long before Thursday’s ceremonies.
“I’ve been involved in Special Olympics for many years — I’ve seen over the years the joy, and it changes lives, because instead of focusing on disabilities, it instead focuses on abilities,” said Schimel. “It helps people develop friendships and to get courage. The motto is perfect – ‘Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt’ — it just says it all.”
Held now for nearly 40 years now in Portage County, according to Schimel, there couldn’t be a better home for the state games.
“It’s great to have a home to do this every year — it’s the perfect venue, and it’s all a well-oiled machine,” said Schimel.
Joining the festivities was TV personality from Wake Up Wisconsin (WKOW) in Madison, Rebecca Ribley. Ribley’s first story in the area was to cover the Special Olympics four years ago, and it’s an inspiration that never let go of her.
“It changed my life.” said Ribley in her remarks to the hundreds on hand. “I was just overwhelmed by the high-fives, the hugs, the smiles — right away I felt included, and I felt welcome; and that’s not a feeling you get everywhere you go.”
Mayor Mike Wiza made his own remarks at the event following Ribley, who summed up the event best in closing.
“Training, competing, giving it your all — all the smiles on your faces, and the joy in your hearts.” said Wiza.
You can catch the Special Olympics all weekend at the UWSP Athletics Fields, Friday and Saturday. Be sure to check out our full photo gallery on our Facebook page.