By Steffanie Wynn
More than 1,500 athletes will gather this weekend as Special Olympics Utah hosts the summer games at BYU Thursday through Saturday.
The athletes will compete in softball, t-ball, soccer, cycling, and track and field events. More than 500 BYU student volunteers and a few hundred additional volunteers from the community are helping to make the event possible, said Rick Otto, a BYU student and one of two program directors responsible for organizing the event on campus.
In addition to sporting events, there will be fun activities for athletes to participate in throughout the weekend, such as the victory dance and the opening and closing ceremonies.
The weekend will kick off with the Summer Games Opening Ceremonies beginning Thursday at 7 p.m. on Miller Field.
Volunteers are still needed to help out throughout the weekend, Otto said.
“Most of these people with special needs have a short life expectancy, and just by coming out and cheering for them we are encouraging them to be active and maybe even lengthening the lifespan of these people,” Otto said.
The best thing about volunteering at the Special Olympics is just being around the participants, said Andrew Judd, this year”s medical committee director in charge of first aid.
“The kids are just hilarious,” Judd said. “It doesn”t matter what you”re doing, its just fun to be around them.”
Anyone interested in volunteering can go to the Center for Service and Learning in the Wilkinson Center to sign up or go at any time during the weekend”s activities to the outdoor track field entrance off Campus Drive and sign up at the volunteer desk near the entrance.
“Every person who volunteers will walk away with a new perception of people with special needs,” Otto said. “After this you will never treat someone with special needs the same .”
Special Olympics Schedule:
*All events at BYU Track
10 a.m.- 5 p.m.: Wheelchair track events, athletic events
7 – 8:30 p.m.: Opening ceremonies
9:30 a.m.- noon: Athletic events
9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.: Cycling finals
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.: Softball skills competition; soccer skills competition
Noon – 5 p.m.: Athetic events
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.: Soccer, softball and tee-ball final games
9:30 – 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.: Athletic events
4:30 – 5:30 p.m.: Closing ceremonies