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Cape Girardeau set to welcome 700 Special Olympians to town
EDITOR'S NOTE: The time and place of opening ceremonies has been corrected.
More than 700 Special Olympics athletes will arrive in Cape Girardeau on Friday bringing with them an estimated $400,000 economic boost according to the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"It's just a very neat event, and it's a pleasure to have them in the community," Chuck Martin, executive director of the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau, said of the Special Olympics State Outdoor Championships.
In addition to the 700 athletes, Martin expects the event to bring about 2,000 additional visitors, including coaches, family and friends of athletes, game officials and state Special Olympics staff.
"Our hotels will be full, and they'll also be dining out, buying gas and other miscellaneous items," Martin said.
Years of planning went into the effort to bring these athletes and their families to Cape Girardeau, said Penny Williams, a member of the local Special Olympic Games Management Team and recreation division manager for Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation.
"We've talked about it for years, but were unable to [hold the event] until we passed the park tax and got the additional fields that we needed," Williams said. "That helped us get the bid here in Cape Girardeau."
State Outdoor Championships, which include golf, tennis and softball competitions, will take place in Cape Girardeau for the next four years.
The estimated cost of putting on the games is about $44,000, according to Mandi Mueller, public relations coordinator with Special Olympics Missouri.
"We've almost completely covered this cost with local sponsorships, which is outstanding," Mueller said.
Procter & Gamble, The Southeast Missourian, River Radio Group, KFVS12, Southeast Missouri Hospital, Southeast Missouri State University, AT&T and the city of Cape Girardeau are all event sponsors.
Funds contributed will be used to pay for hotel rooms and meals for the athletes during their stay in Cape Girardeau, Mueller said. Special Olympics also provides all the sporting equipment for the competitions, the medals athletes receive and pays rent for the facilities it uses.
"Our sponsors felt this was a cause really worth supporting," said Joyce Hunter, who coordinated the fundraising effort for the local Special Olympic Games Management Team. "These athletes don't get a chance to get out and socialize like a lot of others."
Special Olympics falls in line with Procter & Gamble's corporate initiative called Live, Learn, & Thrive, which focuses on the development of children in need, ages 0 to 13, by providing funding to not-for-profit organizations that help them, said Linda Greaser, who handles public affairs for the company's Cape Girardeau plant.
"Corporate Procter & Gamble is a huge sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Games," she said. "This is an opportunity for us to locally follow their lead by helping champion and support Special Olympics athletes."
Events will take place at several Cape Girardeau locations throughout the weekend including the Cape Jaycee Golf Course, Southeast Missouri State University Tennis Complex and Student Recreation Center, Osage Community Centre, Cape Splash and the Arena Building.
"We will really get to showcase our community," Williams said.
There is no admission to watch any of the Special Olympics competitions, and Williams said she hopes people will come out to support the athletes.
An opening ceremony at 7 p.m. Friday at the Arena Park grandstand will also be open to the public, The event will include a parade of athletes from across the state, and performances by the Cape Girardeau Central High School band, Lisa Reutzel and Scott Givens.
More than 300 local volunteers are needed to help out during the weekend's games and events, Mueller said. Volunteers work in four hour shifts and may register online at www.somo.org/outdoor.
1625 North Kingshighway Street, Cape Girardeau, MO