Special Olympians learning new sports

Published 12:50 am Thursday, June 11, 2009

NATCHEZ — The area’s Special Olympians have already proven they can run fast, jump high and swim.

Now, thanks to a series of recreation activities, they also will be able to golf, bowl and line dance.

It’s all part of the local chapter of the Special Olympics series of activities that will keep the Special Olympic athletes involved throughout the year.

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And part of that involved the youths learning how to play golf Wednesday morning at Duncan Park Golf Course.

The Special Olympics are taking part in a different sport for two days each week.

Last week was the first week of the program, and the athletes went bowling.

This week is all about golf and tennis at Duncan Park.

“The kids are having a blast,” Special Olympics parent volunteer Ellen Saunders said. “They’re so excited about it. They’re having a ball and getting on their feet and exercising. That’s the big thing — get out and do something.”

Saunders said about 20 youth participated in the golf and tennis lessons on Wednesday.

Next week the youth will participate in yard games, such as bocci, horseshoes and beachball volleyball.

The following week the Special Olympians will learn the art of line dancing.

“That is something they all wanted to do,” Saunders said. “So we thought, ‘What the heck?’ Let’s do it.”

Saunders said the program came to fruition thanks to an excess of funds in the Special Olympics budget.

“We had extra money in the budget and decided we wanted to do something fun for the kids,” Saunders said. “We worked out a schedule to do it two mornings a week and concentrate on the same sport two days in a row. Anybody who went to the State Games (last month) is eligible.”

Saunders contacted Ryan Porter, who has a degree in theraputic recreation and asked him if he would be the event coordinator.

He agreed and is now heading up the weekly events.

“Ryan is doing an excellent job,” Saunders said. “He had them so organized (on Wednesday). We’re loving it.”

Saunders said she hopes the weekly programs won’t just last through the summer, but will go on all year long.

“We’re kind of winging this,” Saunders said. “Every week we’re looking at it and saying what else can we do? We’ve got tons of ideas.”