United Way Spotlight

United Way Spotlight The list of United Way of Vermillion agencies for the 2002 campaign year includes four agencies that are new to United Way in our community. During the month of November each of these four new agencies will be featured in this United Way Spotlight column. This week's agency is Vermillion Special Olympics.

"Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt." With these words Special Olympians from Vermillion and from all over the United States prepare to participate in their sporting events.

The mission of Vermillion Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for all mentally handicapped children and adults giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness and a sense of self-worth, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendships with their families, other Special Olympians and their communities. Any mentally handicapped individual eight years of age or older is eligible to participate in Special Olympics.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who started a day camp for people with mental retardation, founded Special Olympics in the early 1960s. In 1968 she organized the First International Special Olympics Games at Soldier Field in Chicago. The First Annual Special Olympics South Dakota Summer Games with 125 athletes participating were also held in 1968. Today more than 2,000 children and adults with mental handicaps participate in Special Olympics South Dakota's year-round athletic program.

Vermillion's Special Olympians come to the program through the school system and through SESDAC, Inc. Through successful experiences in sports, Olympians build a positive self-image associated with success. This success carries over into the classroom, the home and the community.

There are a number of areas in which Vermillion Special Olympics needs support, some of them, of course, financial. Expenses include uniforms and athlete registration fees for the summer games and for the bowling and basketball tournaments during the year. In addition, there are travel expenses to be met. For instance, the 2002 South Dakota Special Olympics Summer Games will be held in Spearfish next May. United Way funds will be used to help defray some of these expenses.

The other major area in which Vermillion Special Olympics can use help is volunteer assistance. It takes many, many people to coach, train and travel with the Olympians. Individuals who are interested in serving as volunteers, board members, coaches or fund raisers should contact Ross Dickenson at 624-6670.

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