BYU students help host Special Olympics tournament in Provo

Special Olympics athletes compete in a basketball tournament at the Provo Recreation Center. (Gianluca Cuestas)

BYU students and graduates came to help host a Special Olympics tournament on Friday, Sept. 16 at the Provo Recreation Center.

The day-long event was coordinated by the adaptive programs department at the Provo Recreation Center and community volunteers, many of whom were from BYU. Activities included basketball and bocce ball tournaments, a performance by BYU dunk team and a carnival-themed Olympic Village.

BYU graduate and volunteer coordinator Jessie Jones said she loved being involved with the planning stages of the event.

“I help out with adaptive programs at the Rec. Center occasionally, and when I was asked to help with Special Olympics I thought it would be a great opportunity,” Jones said.

BYU sophomore and event marketing and publicity coordinator Joel Marion said they really wanted to make this a memorable event.

“Our goal was to have this be more than just sports. These athletes trained for months and deserved to have a great experience,” Marion said.

The Recreation Center greeted athletes with banners, balloons and an opening ceremony.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time and this is pretty cool,” said 32-year-old Special Olympics athlete Joe Pratt.

Pratt also said that while he wanted his team from Lehi to win, he hoped everyone would play well and have a good time.

The event hosted 17 basketball and 14 bocce ball teams from across Utah County, including the first-ever Provo basketball team made of athletes strictly from Provo.

“This year is the first time Provo City has ever had its own Special Olympics team,” said adaptive programs coordinator Charlotte Romberg. “It’s really nice to see the games growing throughout Utah, and especially in Provo.”

As the Special Olympics grow in popularity, Romberg said she hopes that they will also get more volunteers.

Lehi Special Olympic athletes compete in a basketball tournament at the Provo Recreation Center. (Gianluca Cuestas)

Jones said as volunteer coordinator she was able to recruit volunteers, and was pleased with the response from the BYU community.

“We had about 75 percent of our volunteers come from BYU this year, which was amazing,” Romberg said. “We had 10 out of 14 people on our planning committee that were either BYU students or graduates, and it would not have been as amazing without them.”

Marion explained this event is something worthwhile.

“Volunteering with Special Olympics is something I’m very passionate about,” Marion said. “I helped with a track event in high school and have been hooked every since. I’d recommend it to anybody.”

The event was free and open to the public. According to Romberg the event attracted almost 200 spectators, which is another number she would like to grow in the future.

The Special Olympics is open to athletes ages 8 and up. According to Marion, teams are divided mostly by ability rather than age so it’s more fair and fun for everyone.

Romberg suggests that BYU students or Provo community members who want to be involved in future Special Olympics sign up on the Special Olympics website, or email Romberg at .

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