LU hosts Special Olympics

John Gramila

This past Saturday, Lawrence students participated in the second annual “Special Olympic Skill Day: Athletes Helping Athletes.”
The event ran from 10 a.m. to noon at Alexander Gym and Whiting Field.
The Lawrence event was part of a series offered at all 10 of the Midwest Conference schools. Nearly all of the schools hosted various sport and athletic skill events, though some offered only certain sports like basketball, softball and bocce ball.
This year, Lawrence offered track and field, soccer and softball throughout the afternoon. Each of the sporting events were led by a group of Lawrence student athletes who went through warm-ups, drills and exercises with the Olympians before finishing the afternoon with a short scrimmage game.
“It was a lot of fun,” said senior Joe Loehnis. “You grow to really appreciate the efforts of all the athletes involved. It was nice to be able to use your talents to help out the community.”
Loehnis, a Student Athlete Advisory Committee representative to the Midwest Conference, hoped that “there is a bigger turnout next year. This year the ratio of Lawrence students to Olympians was about 3 to 1.”
The purpose of these events was not only to help Special Olympians and Lawrence athletes hone their skills, but also to build a connection between the student athletes from the Midwest Conference with the Special Olympics organization and the Olympians themselves.
The event was organized mostly by local branches of the Special Olympics commission, who got in touch with various schools to set dates for the event and contacted athletes from the surrounding area and invited them to participate.
Special Olympics Wisconsin representative Melissa Schoenbrodt said that “all of the athletes involved had a wonderful time,” and that the Special Olympics organization is looking to expand the program even more next year.
This year, the Special Olympic national teams were involved in programs at Carroll and Ripon Colleges. Schoenbrodt said that she hopes those teams will be able to attend more schools next year.
Matt Troha, sports information director for the Midwest Conference, said he was pleased with how the events turned out this year and hopes that the collaboration between the MWC and Special Olympics would continue.
“It’s a great opportunity for participation and support of both the Midwest Conference and the Special Olympics,” Troha said, “And I expect this event to become a tradition for all the schools involved this year.