By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Special Olympics athletes from across Oklahoma are preparing for the 21st annual State Winter Games to be held January 12 through 14, on the campus of The University of Oklahoma and in surrounding communities.
More than 2,200 Special Olympics Athletes are expected to compete at Winter Games this year in swimming, basketball, bowling and volleyball.
The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The events provide opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.
Special Olympics was created in 1968 by the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation. The first International Special Olympics Games were organized by Eunice Kennedy Shriver and held in 1968 at Soldier Field in Chicago.
There were 1,000 athletes at that initial event; now there are more than 4 million athletes competing in 170 countries. Special Olympics Oklahoma was started in 1969 and incorporated in 1972 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.
Today, Special Olympics Oklahoma benefits 10,597 athletes and is supported by over 1,700 volunteer coaches and thousands of sponsors, donors and volunteers conducting more than 140 sports competitions and training clinics every year.
On Thursday, January 12 at 9 a.m. swimming competition begins at Mitch Park Family Y, 2901 Marilyn Williams Dr., in Edmond.
Friday’s events include: Traditional Singles Bowling – Session 1 at AMF Boulevard, Holiday Lanes, Penn 44, AMF Windsor, Fire Lake, Heritage Lanes and Planet Bowl from 9 a.m. to noon; the Volleyball Unified Team competition will be held at Sarkey’s Fitness Center at The University of Oklahoma, 1401 Asp Ave., Norman, from 9 a.m. t 5 p.m. Volleyball Skills will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Traditional Singles Bowling – Session 2 at AMF Boulevard, Holiday Lanes, Penn 44, AMF Windsor, Fire Lake, Planet Bowl & Heritage Lanes will be held from 1 – 4 p.m.
Friday evening, from 7 – 10 p.m., the Opening Ceremonies Victory Celebration/Dance will take place at Journey Church, 3801 Journey Parkway, in Norman.
On Saturday, January 14, from 9 – 11 a.m., the Young Athletes “Stars of the Future” will be held at Sarkey’s Fitness Center Dance Studio. Then from 9 a.m. to noon, Bowling Unified Doubles for all ages will be held at Heritage Lanes, Holiday Lanes and Planet Bowl.
In addition to quality competition, Special Olympics provides an atmosphere of entertainment, fun, and educational and cultural experiences through its Special Olympics Town which will take place at Sarkey’s from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Team Basketball will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Basketball Individual Skills competition will take place from 2 – 4 p.m.
Bowling -Unified Doubles and Team competition will take place at Heritage Lanes, Holiday Lanes and Planet Bowl from 1 – 4 p.m.