Special Olympics set for Saturday

STEUBENVILLE – Athletes from the surrounding area will be in competition during the 38th-annual Ohio Area 9 Special Olympics qualifier this Saturday at Harding Stadium.

Athletes will compete in bocce ball and track and field events.

Track and field events include 50-, 100-, 200, 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter races; standing and running long jump; shot put; softball throw; wheelchair and wheelchair slalom races; 25-meter independent walk; and high jump.

More than 200 athletes from nine area programs are expected to participate, with more than 100 volunteers and chaperones to assist, according to Jane Bodo, Special Olympics coordinator for Jefferson County.

“(Jefferson County) will be sending 46 athletes for bocce and track and field events,” said Bodo. “It will probably be from 200 to 300 total athletes participating.”

Admission is free, with opening ceremonies planned for 9 a.m., Bodo added.

The programs involved include the Belmont Special Olympics; Muskingum Co. Developmental Disabilities; Holmes Public Schools; Jefferson County Developmental Disabilities hosting; Holmes County Developmental Disabilities; Harrison County Developmental Disabilities; Tuscarawas County Developmental Disabilities; Guernsey County Developmental Disabilities; and Carroll County Special Olympics.

Athletes must compete at a qualifier in order to compete at the Ohio Special Olympics Summer Games, set for June 27-29 at Ohio State University in Columbus, according to Bodo.

“We would like to fill the stands this year and show these special athletes the same kind of support we give to our high school sports programs here in the Ohio Valley,” said Heather Jameyson, fleet grocery operations manager for the Wal-Mart Distribution Center, a co-sponsor of the event. “Teamwork and competitive spirit are alive and well in Special Olympics. Attendance costs nothing but pays big emotional dividends.”

“It’s a great way for the community to come together to celebrate athletes and their achievements,” said Bodo. “(The athletes) have a great time. They are happy to participate. They exhibit wonderful sportsmanship with each other.

“Everyone who comes always says how they have a wonderful time,” Bodo continued, who thanked sponsors and volunteers. “It really says something about our area.”

This event is 100 percent locally funded, and those wishing to make a donation should send them to Area 9 Special Olympics, 1600 Pershing Ave., Steubenville, OH 43952.

For information, call Heather Colella at (740) 765-5770. Those wishing to volunteer should call Kitty Ferguson or Denise Kelly at (740) 264-7176.

(Miller can be contacted at mmiller@heraldstaronline.com.)