The Riverside Community Aquatics Center hosted the Collier County Special Olympics County Games on Saturday, July 28. This year 33 athletes participated in 25-meter to 100-meter Olympic style races and relays. The event promotes inclusivity and highlights all talents.
“Special Olympics Florida – Collier County is a multi-dimensional program that raises awareness about the abilities of individuals with intellectual disabilities,” Director David McKenzie commented. “Through sports, we showcase the skills and dignity of our athletes. While sports are our engine, Special Olympics also has extensive programming in the areas of health, education and athlete leadership.”
The coaches and athletes warmed up after the opening ceremony and immediately began the races. Each category consisted of two to four athletes per race. The coaches, families, and supporters cheered on from the sidelines as the swimmers scored their personal best records. Many athletes showed improvement from last year’s races and were rightfully proud of their results.
Despite the early morning call time, every participant was wearing a smile. During the competition, the excitement and encouragement the participants showed for each other embodied the true meaning of sportsmanship.
Special Olympics Florida relies upon the generosity of local individuals and local corporations to support its mission. “Special Olympics Florida – Collier County is made possible through the tireless dedication of the more than 350 (coaches, assistant coaches, board members, county management team members, parents, and caregivers) who organize sports events, coach, publicize, raise funds and administer the organization,” said McKenzie. “Through fundraising and donations, we raise the money necessary to support our program.”
The expression “It takes a village” applies, and people from throughout the area help make the County Games a reality. Among those is Marco Island realtor, Bill Filbin. Filbin not only led the invocation at the opening ceremony, but also, along with his helpers, cooked hot dogs, baked beans and prepared macaroni salad for the entire group of athletes, family members, and 20 volunteers.
A Sponsor Appreciation Award was presented to the River Park Community Center, and lifeguard Jack Seeger accepted on its behalf.
Director McKenzie encourages the community to come out, watch, and support the athletes as they showcase their talents in the pool. The Regional Games are in Sarasota on August 18.
The Riverside Aquatics Center is located at 451 11th Street N., Naples.
For more information please contact Special Olympics Florida – Collier County offices at 239-775-1991 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.