Special Olympics fall games start Friday in Cape Girardeau

Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Kenneth Whitworth, 12, of Farmington races for the finish line during the Special Olympics Springs Games held at the Southeast Missouri State University Student Recreation Center Saturday, April 21. (Adam Vogler)

For the third year in a row, Cape Girardeau will play host to more than 800 athletes participating in the Special Olympics Missouri State Fall Games.

From Friday through Sunday, teams from across the state will compete in events such as flag football, softball, tennis and golf, but what makes these games stand out from other sporting events is the athletes themselves, who operate under the Special Olympics motto: "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

Penny Williams, southeast area director of Special Olympics Missouri, has no doubt that the athletes who arrive in Cape Girardeau will be brave.

"This is as much a state championship for them as it is for any high school football or basketball team," Williams said. "All athletes agree to train for at least eight weeks, and I know they're going to be ready. They're going to give it everything they have."

Events will be held in the Show Me Center's Student Recreation Center, the Shawnee Sports Complex and the Cape Jaycee Municipal Golf Course. Participants will range in age from 8 to the early 60s, and will include not only area teams from Cape Girardeau, Sikeston and Poplar Bluff but also St. Louis, Kansas City and St. Joseph. Many will be traveling away from home for the first time to take part in the Cape Girardeau games, but Williams expects the athletes will feel welcome and at home.

"We're proud of what Cape is doing for the games," she said. "We received a great response when we put out a call for volunteers, with over 700 so far wanting to help. We've even got soldiers from Fort Leonard Wood coming to help us during the bocce games. We appreciate that so much, and with that kind of reaction to what we're doing I know things will go as smoothly as they can."

Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation director Julia Thompson said Cape Girardeau has always been a welcoming location for the participants.

"What makes the games that much more special is the warm, caring community we have here," she said. "In the years Cape has hosted the events, people have always turned out to cheer and encourage the athletes. It's been successful beyond our wildest dreams, and we know that this year's fall games will also be a success."

Cape Girardeau is in its third year of a four-year commitment to host the games, which are scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Friday with the golf competition at the Cape Jaycee Municipal Golf Course and the tennis competition starting at Redhawks Tennis Complex. The bocce competitions at the Shawnee Sports Complex will begin at 8:30 a.m. The opening ceremony will begin at 7 p.m. at the Show Me Center, with the first 250 fans receiving a free T-shirt, and Williams said she hopes that it will be a memorable occasion.

"I'd love for the Show Me Center to be full for the athletes," she said. "When they walk out during the Parade of Athletes and make their appearance it will mean the world for them to see the stands full of people showing their support. That particularly goes for the teams who will have traveled a ways to get here and may not have a large cheering section of their own."

Events will continue Saturday with the softball tournament at the Shawnee Sports Complex from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., with flag football taking place nearby from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will also be individual softball skills on display at Shawnee beginning at 9 a.m. At 6 p.m. Saturday there will be a dinner at the Student Recreation Center for the athletes, followed by a bingo and dancing until 9:30 p.m. The games will close Sunday with a softball tournament at Shawnee from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.

"The athletes take this very seriously," Thompson said, "and I know the parents, coaches, and volunteers are taking it seriously, too. Everything is being done to make sure the athletes have such a good time. It's worth it."

Anyone interested in volunteering for the games can go to www.somo.org/fallgames or call Jen Rose at 651-2105.

klewis@semissouran.com

388-3635

Pertinent addresses:

1333 N. Sprigg St., Cape Girardeau, MO

1157 S. West End Blvd., Cape Girardeau, MO

3280 Perryville Rd., Cape Girardeau, MO

Sprigg St. and Bertling St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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