College hosts Special Olympics

by Roshan Dutta | 5/11/14 6:24pm

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by Trevelyan Wing and Trevelyan Wing / The Dartmouth

Cody Towle can run a 200-meter race wearing 22-inch snowshoes in 52.6 seconds. Without snowshoes, he finished a 200-meter dash fast enough to nab a blue ribbon during the Hanover Special Olympics last weekend, qualifying for the state competition later this month.

Towle and around 80 other athletes competed, supported one another and celebrated their accomplishments during this year’s Hanover area summer games, held Saturday at Leverone Field House and the Upper Valley Aquatic Center.

Family members, coaches and friends were also present at the day’s events, which included a swim meet, bocce ball, a softball throw and track and field events.

The Hanover Area games qualify athletes for the 45th New Hampshire Summer Games, which will be held at the University of New Hampshire in Durham later this month.

Towle, a Woodsville High School student who has raised money for charitable foundations through competing in the Special Olympics, expressed his excitement at qualifying for the state-level competition.

Several athletes and parents expressed said they appreciate event and the volunteers’ efforts, expressing pride in the athletes. Reflecting on her son’s accomplishments, Gina Towle said she was happy for the opportunity to compete against local teams and athletes, especially for her son, who has run a snow shoe race for several past winter Special Olympics.

“It’s a fun event for them, and it’s really nice that they get to compete and do things that everyone else gets to do — and a lot of things they can do better than other people,” she said.

Special Olympians are not restricted by age or physical ability, and several middle-aged and elderly athletes participated in Saturday’s events, performing on par with many of their younger counterparts.

Scott Graticos, an older athlete who participated in the bocce ball event, said that while he had mixed feelings about his performance, he had fun and hopes to record a better finish at the state games.

“I’ve been training for a couple months now, and while I won two doubles matches I lost my first and last game,” he said. “This is to get us prepared for the state games at UNH later this month, where I’ll try and put in a better performance.”

Most athletes participated as members of teams.

Several attendees said the Olympics gave the athletes motivation to exercise and stay in shape. The parents of Brett Clough, an athlete, said that before their son began competing in the Special Olympics, he was a “homebody” who was relatively out of shape and rarely left the house. The Olympics, they said, gave him an outlet for social and athletic involvement that has resulted in a positive change in his mental and physical health.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that obesity rates for adults with disabilities are 58 percent higher than in other adults, and children with disabilities are 38 percent more likely to suffer from obesity than children without disabilities.

Around 80 volunteers, including many from Dartmouth, assisted with the events, organizer Erika Daukas ’16 said.

Several volunteers for the day’s events said they enjoyed talking to athletes and their families.

Jay Graham ’15, who has coached and volunteered at past Special Olympics events, said that volunteering was a personally motivational experience and one that has been fun for both himself, his sister and the other athletes who he has been able to coach and watch compete. His sister, he said, competes in Special Olympics events in North Virginia.

“Getting to know all my sister’s friends back home, the kids that I’ve gotten to meet through the program, has been awesome,” Graham said. “It really helps from my point of view to keep a sense of perspective, I think that in a 10-week term you get so wrapped up in whatever it is —- midterms or final exams, anything else you get wrapped up in ---— that seeing how much fun they get to have helps me personally to realize there are a lot more important things than just getting a 4.0 or winning a game.”

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