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Special Olympics PA to celebrate 50th summer games; volunteers still needed

by and on June 06, 2019 9:02 AM

UNIVERSITY PARK — Special Olympics Pennsylvania will hosts its 50th annual Summer Games June 6-8 at Penn State's University Park, bringing together more than 2,000 athletes and 750 coaches from across the Commonwealth to compete in eight sports.

But the largest event of its kind in the state takes more than 1,000 volunteers to help it run smoothly, and hundreds of people are still needed to help make the Summer Games' golden anniversary as successful as possible.

“It’s important to know that the games are majority volunteer-run,” Teresa Amaturo, central competition director, said in a news release. “The members of the community who join us in supporting these athletes are vital to making the games happen.”

Volunteers are needed for roles including general event volunteers, assisting with athlete arrival, luggage assistance and equipment tear down. Volunteers are also needed for sports-specific roles including, but not limited to, scorekeepers, runners, timers, lane monitors, announcers, judges and more. Visit the SOPA website and follow the registration process to become a volunteer.

Registering in advance will help make the event days more efficient.

The first SOPA Summer Games consisted of a track and field meet at West Chester University with 135 athletes. This will be the 32nd year the games have been held at Penn State, and the event has grown exponentially.

Preliminary competitions begin on Thursday, June 6, followed by Opening Ceremonies at 7:30 p.m. at Pegula Ice Arena. Emceed by Kellie Goodman-Shaffer, president and CEO of the Bedford County Chamber of Commerce, and Bedford County athlete Christa Mereen, the ceremony is expected to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Summer Games with a short video retrospective and special guests. 

State College Area High School Marching Band and Penn State performing arts club Harmony will provide entertainment. The opening ceremonies culminate with with the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron by the Flame of Hope, which is brought to University Park by more than 400 members of law enforcement representing 50 teams from across the state. The Be a Fan Torch Run starts on Tuesday from home plate at PNC Park in Pittsburgh and is carried over the course of three days and 150 miles to University Park.

Competition continues on Friday, June 7, in individual skills, individual events, relay and team events, with athletes competing in aquatics, athletics, basketball, equestrian, golf, gymnastics, softball and tennis. 

Friday's activities concludes with a family ice cream social and Victory Dance from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Pegula Ice Arena. 

On Thursday and Friday, Healthy Athletes programs will offer health education and screenings to Special Olympics athletes, free of charge. The program has made Special Olympics the largest public health organization for people with intellectual disabilities in the world.

Final competitions and awards are scheduled to take place at each venue between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Geoff Rushton,
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