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March 4, 2011 (Santee)--West Hills High School in Santee will once again be the location for the East County Special Olympics. The 28th annual event host¬ed by the Division 31 Kiwanis of East County takes place Saturday, March 12 from 9 to 11 a.m. The Special Olympics celebrates diversity and inspires participants, volunteers and all who attend the free event.


Athletes ages eight to 80 will participate in competitions including: a softball throw, long jump, the standing long jump, meter (up to 100 meter), and wheelchair races (5 and 10-yard dashes).


The event is sanctioned by the Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC). The nonprofit organization empowers individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition in a variety of year-round Olympic-type sports that give children and adults continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families other Special Olympics athletes and the community.


“Our athletics have attended practices and will continue to do so for a total of four months and this event gives them the chance to join in community activities and show what they are capable of,” said Kelcie Kopf, Regional Sports Manager of SOSC. “Special Olympics allow them to demonstrate their abilities rather than any disabilities.”


The Special Olympics requires nearly 300 volunteers from local schools, churches, the Builders and Kiwanis Clubs and Knights of Columbus. “We provide the T-shirts for volunteers and help with other costs. Kiwanis and Special Olympics Southern California staff the event and Special Olympics provide the ribbons,” said Gary Montoya, event coordinator for the Kiwanis Clubs of Division 31.


Eagle Scout Troop 950 will open the event at 8:30 a.m. with a flag ceremony. The different events will then take place, follow by a lunch and ending with a parade where all the athletes proudly display their medals. “Every athlete gets a medal, and every one of them is ecstatic,” Montoya said. “It’s very heartwarming.”


About 30 of the participants in the Special Olympics, and later in the Special Olympics Bowling Competition in August, are from East County’s Home of Guiding Hands. “The athletes look forward to these events every year and being recognized as a winner,” said Karen Cook, Home of Guiding Hands Director of Development. “It boosts their self-esteem, and gives them a pride of accomplishment that last long after the games are over.”


For more information contact Gary Montoya at (619) 464-6260