It’s not the medal she won as a state runner-up last year in basketball. It’s not the confidence she has gained from playing sports. It’s also not the fun she says she has when she shows off her athletic skills.
So what drives 32-year-old Michelle Boyles to return each year to bowl and play basketball in the Hancock County Special Olympics?
“My friends on my team are my favorite,” Boyles said. “I get along with them.” In her eighth year as a participant, Boyles says even though she won a medal last year because she and her basketball team earned second-place honors in Columbus, it is the camaraderie she feels with her teammates that makes her the happiest as a Special Olympics participant.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR PARTICIPANTS
According to Blanchard Valley Center for Adaptive Physical Education teacher and County Coordinator, Cara Noel, Hancock County Special Olympics is a 501 non-profit sub-group of Special Olympics Ohio. The local program currently offers seven different athletic opportunities to county residents who have a desire to play sports and are intellectually disabled. Currently, the seven sports the program offers are bowling, swimming, basketball, softball, track and field, golf and volleyball. The program is designed to provide opportunities to build up the athlete’s self-esteem socially, psychologically and physically.
Noel says the program operates similar to the Ohio Athletic Association’s – where athletes compete locally with opportunities to advance and compete at divisional, regional and state levels. The county Special Olympics program is open to anyone eight-years-old or older. To recruit potential athletes and rally enthusiasm and volunteerism for the program, Noel selects local athletes to accompany her to county schools as ambassadors. Most recently, she made a visit to Arcadia High School.
The program is funded 100% by donations with two major fundraisers that the county olympics program relies on to keep in operation. According to former coordinator Tom Meyer, now Chair of the Special Olympics Advisory Board, one of its largest donations comes from the Findlay Striders Group, which donates the proceeds from its August Up, Up and Away 5K Balloon Fest run. Meyer says their other main source of donations is a 10th annual fundraiser coming up in May- the Meijer Special Olympics Golf Outing at Red Hawk Run Golf Course. This will be Meijer’s third year serving as the event’s main sponsor. Many other local businesses and volunteers provide services and contribute to the event.
“Besides a round of golf (scramble format) at a top notch golf course, participants can win major prizes,” said Meyer. “Everyone gets a free meal sponsored by City BBQ. The community businesses that sponsor holes, carts and food get their business names viewed by over 100 golfers, many of whom are business owners themselves. This is a great opportunity for the Blanchard Valley Center community, business community and volunteer community to come together and have some fun in the process.”
For more information about the program or
fundraisers, contact Noel at Blanchard Valley Center at 419-422-6387.