Meramec hosts Special Olympics Spring games

Posted on 03 May 2017 by Ian Schrauth

Special Olympics stays on track despite rain

SOBy: Andrew Ameer
Staff Writer

 

Damp weather did not dampen spirits Saturday, as St. Louis Community College hosted the Special Olympics of Missouri at its Meramec campus.

Athletes from all over the St. Louis metro area, including Jefferson and Franklin counties, converged on the Meramec campus Saturday for the area spring games. Joining the athletes in braving the weather were hundreds of friends, relatives and volunteers.

The event kicked off in the gymnasium with a performance by the Special Olympics dance team, followed by a rendition of the national anthem by Joseph Niemeyer who said it felt “really good” to sing the national anthem in front of a large audience.

Members of the Knights of Columbus were also present for the national anthem.

“I think it’s fantastic,” said Meramec Campus Provost Carol Lupardus, who was present at the event and says she really enjoyed seeing the reactions from the athletes participating in the games. “We are very lucky to be hosting the Special Olympics today.”

Many of the planned events were canceled because of the thunderstorm, but following the opening ceremony several indoor games commenced inside the gym, including wheelchair races, assisted walk, relay races and sprints. Athletes of a variety of ages and capabilities participated in the games.

“That’s the thing about the Special Olympics — there’s something for everyone!” said Lisa, a volunteer who has been working with Special Olympics Missouri for over 15 years. Dozens of representatives from several area police departments were at the event to award medals to athletes, including officers from Saint Louis City, Saint Louis County, Wildwood, Maryland Heights, O’Fallon, Creve Coeur and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Sgt. Mark Koeller with the Saint Louis County police department was the coordinator for law enforcement presence at the event, and says he typically has no problems getting officers to volunteer for events like this.

“It’s great for the officers, it gets them some volunteer time, and the athletes love them.” He says he has been involved with Special Olympics for 17 years.

While the games went on in the gymnasium, athletes and volunteers were entertained by a live band as they ate lunch in the cafeteria. Free health screenings took place in the student center to help assess fitness and nutrition levels for athletes.

Amber Young, who plans and organizes events for Special Olympics athletes and volunteers in the St. Louis area says that generally about 400 athletes register for the spring games event, and about 700 volunteers are required to pull it off since every athlete buddies up with a volunteer.

Young says that even though they would have loved to do more despite the rain, “overall I think our mission was accomplished; we had a great event and built the self-confidence and courage [of] our athletes.”

 

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