Sun News Editor
More than 5,500 athletes, coaches, chaperones and volunteers will find themselves in Mt Pleasant this weekend as part of the 2010 Special Olympics Michigan State Summer Games.
The largest of seven state level events, the State Summer Games kicks off at 10 a.m. Thursday with the annual Capitol Steps Torch Lighting Ceremony in Lansing. Law Enforcement Torch Run members will carry the torch from Lansing to Mt. Pleasant in a relay run leading to the opening ceremonies at 6:30 p.m. at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Opening ceremonies will include a Coast Guard fly over provided by the United States Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City.
The 2009 Inspirational Athlete of the Year Kyle Winters will be running the last leg of the torch run in Kelly/Shorts Stadium to light the Flame of Hope at opening ceremonies. Winters will be presented with a running jacket at closing ceremonies from the Law Enforcement Torch Run and become an honorary member. The 2010 Inspirational Athlete of the Year will be announced during closing ceremonies on Friday.
An estimated 2,500 athletes are scheduled to compete from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in 10 sports including:
Motor Activities Training Program
Power Lifting and/or Weightlifting
"We're up about 6 percent over last year in athletes," said Kimberly Purdy, public relations director for Special Olympics Michigan.
To compete in the State Summer Games, athletes must first qualify at the local level.
"This is something they work for all year long," Purdy said of the athletes.
With athletes competing in almost every county in Michigan, Purdy said this event is the athletes moment in the spotlight.
"When you come to the State Summer Games you see the joy on all their faces," Purdy said. "It's the athletes' chance to shine."
"It's the time of their lives for the athletes," Purdy said. "The athletes form friendships, mingle, and dance in the Victory Dance after closing ceremonies."
Athletes also are not the only ones who benefit from the games.
"We have coaches and volunteers who feel they get more out of the games than the athletes," Purdy said.
All events at the State Summer Games are free and open to the public. To get the public involved, a Community Open House and Tour is being offered at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. Friday or 10 a.m. Saturday at CMU's IAC.
"We welcome the community to come out and cheer on the athletes," Purdy said. "It's an incredible opportunity. You feel great after you watch these athletes compete."
Three Grand Marshals for the parade of athletes are being honored including Special Olympics Michigan Director of Area Management Ron Green, who is celebrating 30 years with the organization and volunteers Bob Cosan and Mary Alsager, who are also celebrating 30 years on the State Summer Games Committee.
Detroit Lions player Drew Stanton and some former Lions players will be volunteering their time at the State Summer Games. Miss Michigan Nicole Blaszczyk and other title holders from around Michigan will also be on hand for the Celebrity Autograph signing from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Friday at Central Michigan University's Indoor Athletic Complex.
New this year to the games is the "Rev It Up Ride" leading up to closing ceremonies on Friday night. The "Rev It Up Ride" will bring motorcycle riders from all across Michigan to Mt. Pleasant, with many from the Michigan Moose Association, but anyone is welcome to participate by paying the $100 suggested entry fee. The ride raises funds for Special Olympics Michigan.
Also new this year, a King and Queen of the 2010 State Summer Games will be announced during closing ceremonies. Each area can nominate one male and one female athlete. The athlete must be present at closing ceremonies. The King and Queen will be drawn from nomination forms submitted at closing ceremonies.
The Healthy Athletes Village, which provides free health screenings to all athletes is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. This year's village includes Opening Eyes, Special Smiles, Healthy Hearing, Medfest and Spartan Stores "To Your Good Life."
During this year's State Summer Games, parents and children may participate in the Young Athletes Program, which introduces children ages 2-7 to Special Olympics Michigan, before they become eligible to compete. The Young Athlete Program will be held in Rose Arena room 125 from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday.
The State Summer Games are presented by Spartan Stores, the only Statewide Gold Medal Sponsor of Special Olympics Michigan.
For more information on the games go to www.somi.org.
The Morning Sun