If you’ve ever been to a Special Olympics competition, you know how important it is to the athletes who compete.
“They don’t care where they finish,” said Sarah Brewster, director of the Mariposa County Special Olympics program. “Their faces light up.”
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics.
This worldwide organization has changed the lives of hundreds of athletes over the years. Special Olympics provides sports training and competition opportunities to children, starting at the age of 8, and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Locally, the team in Mariposa County is known as the Miners. The Miners team was formed 18 years ago.
The Miners compete in a handful of sports such as basketball and track and field, but also stay busy year-round with non-Special Olympic activities such as bocce ball and more.
There is no cost to participate. Athletes compete with other athletes who are at their own talent levels.
The program encourages healthy living, camaraderie and competition.
“Healthy living is one of the biggest things we’re trying to promote,” said Olessia Silva, a volunteer with the Miners.
However, several issues are facing the local program. In the last few years, the program has seen a decrease in the number of athletes, has struggled through transportation issues and has to battle a general lack of knowledge that the program exists.
“It is mind-blowing for me,” said Silva. “A lot of people do not know about it.”
In fact, the program is down to just eight athletes in the county.
“My vision is to get our name out there so much that we can attract other athletes,” said Brewster.
The Miners will host a regional track meet in the not-too-distant future, set for May 18 at Mariposa County High School, in which athletes from Mariposa, Merced and Stanislaus counties will compete. More information will be printed in the Gazette as the event nears.