A special kind of Olympics

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 17, 2005

&uot;Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.&uot;

– Special Olympians motto

They’re called Special Olympians for a number of reasons.

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It’s not because of their mental disabilities. It’s not because their physical capabilities aren’t always up to the level of those that are portrayed as &uot;normal.&uot;

Nope. It’s because the participants get more out of their participation in sports that most athletes. It’s because they enjoy it more, no matter where they finish. It’s because they don’t know how to lose – because they never really do.

Over the next few weeks, more and more local special athletes from around the area will have the chance to compete in events such as swimming, ice skating, golf and bowling, with more to follow when warmer weather rolls around. On Saturday afternoon, Suffolk’s Special Olympics (SO) Board of Volunteers met at King’s Fork Recreation Center to discuss the future of their athletes and volunteers – who are just as special in their own way.

&uot;It’s very rewarding,&uot; said local coordinator Michael Clark. &uot;We get a lot of self-satisfaction with helping kids.&uot;

Clark’s weekly SO swim class begins at 6 tonight at the Suffolk YMCA, and programs for the aforementioned sports are in the making.

On Feb. 5, the board will take its annual dip into the Virginia Beach oceanfront at the Polar Plunge to raise funds for the program, and will meet the third Thursday of every month (the first meeting will be Jan. 27) at 6:30 p.m. in the King’s Fork Middle School library.

&uot;Special Olympics is a very worthwhile organization,&uot; said new volunteer Carol Johnson. &uot;It’s a way to give back to the community and help athletes that work hard, and deserve a chance to participate in an athletic endeavor.&uot;

One such athlete is Kerry Pratt, 33.

&uot;I’ve been watching golf and bowling on TV,&uot; he said. &uot;I’d want to learn to play, because I’ve never done it.&uot;

The local SO program is teaming with Hope and Happiness, which was founded by Kerry’s mother Lynn. The organization holds monthly socials for local special needs children, filled with fun, fellowship, refreshments, music and dancing. The next event will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Jan. 22 at the Tidewater House at 5268 Godwin Blvd. in Suffolk.

&uot;This area has no recreational or socialization opportunities for special needs children,&uot; Lynn said. &uot;I wanted my son and all the other kids to have something to do socially and fun. These kids need to get out and interact.

For more information on SO, contact Southeast Section director Tara Frederick, or visit www.specialolympicsva.com

For more on the social, contact Lynn at 986-3353.