Special Olympics fans out in Valley fields and parks
It’s going to be an action-packed weekend in the Valley.
This Saturday and Sunday, the 31st annual Special Olympics Massachusetts Competitions will be taking over the western part of the state, from fishing in the Quabbin to cycling on the campus of the University of Massachusetts.
Hundreds of athletes from all over the state will converge on landmarks throughout the Valley to participate in state-level competitions in fishing, softball, bocce, cycling and golf. The Special Olympics offers athletes of all ages who have intellectual disabilities the opportunity to participate in 25 different sports year round.
Special Olympics Massachusetts spokesman Christopher Richie said he particularly enjoys watching the softball competitions at Nonotuck Park in Easthampton and Blunt Park in Springfield.
“It’s a big team effort,” said Richie, who works at the Special Olympics Massachusetts headquarters in Marlborough. “Everybody’s really playing their hearts out.”
This weekend will feature more than 800 athletes, including team members without disabilities who will join their peers through Special Olympics Unified Sports, a partnership that aims to break down stereotypes about individuals with intellectual disabilities, according to the Special Olympics website.
“The athletes and their (Unified) partners and coaches all come out to play and to win,” said Richie, noting that not every participant receives a medal. “It’s a competition, which is great.”
Out of the total number of athletes competing this weekend, 496 come from the area serviced by the Special Olympics Massachusetts west section office in Chicopee. This consists of the Pioneer Valley, Berkshire county and greater Worcester and greater Fitchburg areas, said west section director Jon Scully.
The games begin at 8 a.m. Saturday with the launching of boats at the Quabbin, where participants will compete to catch the biggest fish from the boats and from the shore.
Softball begins at 9 a.m. in Nonotuck Park on Daley Field Road and Blunt Park at 1780 Roosevelt Ave. in Springfield, and bocce also begins at that time in Nonotuck Park. This is followed by cycling at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst at 10 a.m., and golf at the Westover Golf Course at 181 South St. in Granby starting at 12:30 p.m.
The events are scheduled for the same times on Sunday, with the games concluding at 4 p.m.
On Saturday at 8 p.m., there will be a torch lighting ceremony in the Hampshire Dining Commons at UMass by members of the Amherst, Easthampton, Shutesbury, Amherst College and UMass police departments, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department* and the UMass men’s and women’s basketball teams, hockey and football team.
Spectators and volunteers are welcome both Saturday and Sunday. The weekend will also feature festivities as part of “Olympic Town,” which includes a dance Saturday night on the Hampshire Dining Commons Quad and activities such as a basketball shoot out, arts and crafts and carnival games at Blunt and Nonotuck Parks both days.
More information and a detailed schedule of events is available at www.specialolympicsma.org/events/sporting-events/spring-summer-season/august-tournament/.
Gena Mangiaratti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.