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SPECIAL OLYMPICS ATHLETES FROM 11 COUNTIES TO COMPETE FRIDAY IN 2016 SPRING GAMES

Families, volunteers and spectators will be cheering on men and women, boys and girls – all Special Olympics athletes – as they compete in the largest Area event of the year for Special Olympics Illinois Southeastern/Area 14. The annual Spring Games takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, May 6, at Mt. Vernon Township High School. The public is invited to watch the competition and experience the joy of achievement by Special Olympics athletes. Southeastern/Area 14 is composed of Edwards, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jefferson, Marion, Pope, Saline, Wabash, Wayne and White Counties.

At the Southeastern/Area 14 Spring Games, approximately 386 athletes are expected to compete in athletics (track & field), the most popular of 19 sports offered by Special Olympics Illinois. The event begins at 9:45 a.m. with an Opening Ceremony. Competition follows immediately and will conclude by 2 p.m. All athletes will march in the parade of athletes and recite the Special Olympics oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” The running of the torch with the “Flame of Hope” and the lighting of the cauldron signifies the opening of the games.

Athletes will compete in the 50-, 100-, 200-, 400 – 800 and 1500- meter runs; standing and running long jumps; shot put; turbo-javelin; tennis and softball throw; 100, 400- and 800-meter walk races; wheelchair competitions and assisted races. Athletes compete in divisions by gender and ability levels.

Sponsors for the Special Olympics Illinois Southeastern/Area 14 Spring Games are: Presenting Sponsor – the Eugene C. Kieffer Charitable Organization (ECKCO), Gold Medal Sponsors – Knights of Columbus Illinois Council, Jefferson County Mental Health Board #708, Hal B. Hempen Foundation, and Schweinfurth Foundation. Silver Medal Sponsor – Kiwanis International, Bronze Medal Sponsor AMVETS 5th District and Blue Ribbon Sponsors – Litton Ambulance, Domino Pizza, Coca-Cola and Republic Services.

To compete in the Special Olympics Illinois Area Spring Games, athletes must train for eight weeks. Athletes who win a gold medal at these Area games qualify to compete in the Special

Olympics Illinois State Summer Games to be held June 10-12 on the campuses of Illinois State University in Normal and Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington. More than 3,700 athletes from around the state are expected to compete in Summer Games.

Special Olympics Illinois Southeastern/Area 14 Director Rhonda Knight said the Spring Games could not go on without generous volunteer support: “We rely on volunteers to help run every aspect of Spring Games. But even more importantly, the athletes look forward to the friendship and encouragement they receive from the volunteers.” We appreciate our returning volunteers from Community First Bank of the Heartland and St. Mary the Immaculate Conception Church of Mt. Vernon, Mt. Vernon and Salem Kiwanis Clubs, as well as our student groups from Mt. Vernon High School, South Central High School, Webber High School, Woodlawn High School, Hamilton County Senior High and Wayne City District #100..

The Law Enforcement Torch Run, Illinois Knights of Columbus and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois are Official Partners of Special Olympics Illinois.

About Special Olympics Illinois

Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit organization offering year-round training and competition in 19 sports for nearly 22,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities and nearly 21,000 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics promotes acceptance for all and transforms lives by empowering people with intellectual disabilities to realize their full potential in sports and in life. Special Olympics programs enhance physical fitness, motor skills, self-confidence, social skills and encourage family and community support. If you are interested in learning more about Special Olympics Illinois, volunteering or providing financial support to help make Special Olympics programs possible, contact a local Special Olympics agency or the Special Olympics Illinois Southeastern/Area 14 office at 618-378-2131 or visit the website at www.soill.org.