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Porter County Special Olympics

What is Special Olympics? Why is it important? Who is involved in it? How do I learn more? These are several questions that are often asked by people unaware of this largest sports program in the world, and right here in Porter County over 600 athletes enjoy learning skills and competing in various sports. Our county boasts one of the greatest number of athletes in the state for bowling, swimming, and bocce. Special Olympics is an all-encompassing sports program for children and adults with developmental disabilites, whether they are severe or mild, and provides opportunites for every level of athletic abilities. There is never a time of the year that some sport is available, thus giving athletes many choices.

Sports offered to our athletes are; aquatics, bowling, basketball, bocce, flag football, golf, Motor activity training program, skiing, snoweshoeing, softball, track and field, and volleyball. Soon to be added are soccer and ballroom dancing. Athletes compete with others of like ability and age. Every athlete is required to have an Athlete Particiaption form and Medical form on file before competing.

What makes it such a unique program in our area is that it is totally volunteer, and all volunteer coaches must go through a training and background check. Thus, all monies raised are used to help each Special Olympics athlete become the best he/she can be--and they are the best! But it is far from being merely a sports program; rather is all-inclusive and becomes a permanent lifestyle. There are also many social activites planned throughout the year including dances, hayrides, game nights, picnics, etc., thanks to the Special Sports Boosters parents.

Without a doubt, "best friends" are an overwhelmingly important part of special olympics, and through the variety of state events, friends from all over Indiana become part of their lives. Unified sports include athletes with non-handicapped partners and has become a great way for others to realize the superb people the Special Olympics athletes are. One of the outstanding parts of Indiana Special Olympics is the Athlete Leadership Program (ALPs) which gives higher functioning young men and women the opportunity to climb the mountain of success in coaching, officiating, speaking, decision-making, and even serving on state boards and management teams. Again, Porter County shines with athletes who are excellent at bringing the message to others, coaching their peers, officiating in capable sports, and always giving their all to bring pride to themselves and PCSO. They are required to take classes and record practicums to receive credit for the classes they choose. These athletes are true leaders and have brought a perspective to all those involved in the importance of continuing to grow in learning.

PCSO receives no specific monies for their programs and solely relies on their fund-raisers, and donations. This is its 41st year, and thus far we have been blessed to be able to continue all our programs, especially thanks to all the wonderful coaches, assistants, and parents involved. The Valparaiso School district has been particularly great with the use of facilities, and caring staff. It is a real compliment to the entire program to have had both male and female basketball teams, two bocce players, and two track stars chosen to represent Indiana at the National Games to be held at the University of Nebraska in July. Although it requires an enormous amount of fund-raising, the honor is priceless. Anyone interested in becoming a part of PCSO in any capacity please call 465-1323, and you will be welcomed. Donations of any kind can be sent to treasurer, Kathy Petrovich at 980 Portage Ave. in Chesterton, or coordinator, Lorrie Woycik at 836 George St. in Valpo.

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