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Sports Clinic Builds Excitement for Special Olympics

special29_dl.jpgBOONE – Appalachian State University recently hosted a sports clinic for Special Olympians and other sports enthusiasts with disabilities.

Nineteen athletes participated in the event, in which college students helped them excel in their preferred sport and gain experience in new ones.

The participants, ages 15 to adult, practiced soccer, softball throwing, bocce, track and volleyball at Kidd Brewer Stadium.

062805special06_dl.jpgThe sports clinic was designed to enhance skill development and recruit people who have not participated in Special Olympics before. It also offered a service-learning project for Appalachian students, giving them event-planning experience and opportunities to interact with people with disabilities while performing community service.

“For education majors, this kind of event gives them experience working with people with disabilities, which is important because they will have students with disabilities in their classrooms,” said Stefanie Noland, an instructor in the Reich College of Education’s Department of Language, Reading and Exceptionalities.

Two recreation management classes in the Department of Health, Leisure and Exercise Science joined Noland’s special education class in planning the event.

Because people will disabilities participate in municipal parks and recreation, recreation management majors need to understand their abilities and needs, said assistant professor Kevin Riley.

Senior Ashley Lavender, a student in Riley’s class, said “I want to work at a YMCA, and people with disabilities come there to work out. We need to know how to work with them like anyone else.”

Jon Kwiathowski, a Special Olympics coach who has a child with Down syndrome, said Special Olympics competition takes a hiatus during the summer but that athletes need to stay physically active year-round.

” Our goal is to do these sports clinics on a regular basis. It really helps them advance their skills and gives more cross training with other sports,” he said.

Watauga County has about 80 Special Olympians. Kwiathowski said he hopes more young people with disabilities will get involved. “If we can get them involved while they are young, they are more likely to stay involved. They need to stay physically active like everyone else.”

First Picture Caption: Joanie McDonough, left, gets excited about soccer with help from Appalachian student Lori Dillard.Second Picture Caption: Eddie Johnson and Jim Teague, center, play bocce with help from Gavin Holt, far left, and Graham Nelson, far right.