The Special Olympics drives home the message that people with disabilities can and will succeed if given the opportunity. In an effort to recognize the accomplishments of Special Olympics athletes, Team Huron Valley Special Olympics is gearing up for its 12th annual track and field competition on April 30, and is soliciting volunteers for the event.
The track and field exhibition will be held between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. It will feature running and relay events, shot put/softball throws, running long jump, standing long jump, and wheelchair events for the more than 60 athletes who participate.
The event is sponsored by Special Olympics, a global non-profit organization targeting the nearly 200 million people around the world who have cognitive impairment.
In Huron Valley, the program has expanded over the last seven years from one to nine sports that include bowling; cycling; soccer; cheerleading; swimming; basketball; skiing; softball; and track and field.
Athletes 8-years-old and up from the White Lake, Milford, Commerce and Highland communities compete in the events.
“Right now we have 52 athletes signed up compared to last year’s 60, but I envision we will gain a few more before the event,” said Darlene Garrison, director of Team Huron Valley Special Olympics.
HVS Director of Student Support Services Julie Conn is deeply involved in Special Olympics, given that her 21-year-old daughter Emily has been participating for a decade.
“She started when she was 11-years-old — when the district started the program,” Conn said. “It’s a fabulous experience. I remember all the moms crying at the medal ceremony because our children could participate in something they could never do otherwise. They just don’t have the same skill level.”
Most expenses are covered through fundraising, but the district donates usage of its pools and track facilities toward the event free of charge.
To pull off another successful event this year, Garrison said she will need about 250 volunteers.
“We just started with volunteer sign up and as of last week we have 25 or 30,” she said.
Volunteer tasks include assisting or cheering on athletes, running events, documenting and measuring, concessions or running the 50/50 raffles.
Individuals interested in volunteering can contact Jamie Gradinscak at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Garrison at 248-684-8143.
There will be a meeting for volunteers held on April 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Milford High School theater, where volunteers can sign up. Garrison said she would like to have a complete list of volunteers by April 15.