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Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt. Special Olympics athlete oath



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welcome to mt. Pleasant

Special Olympians!

• deerfield village • emerald village • Hickory lane • Jamestown • Polo village • soutHPoint village • union square • wasHington village • west camPus village • western islands • westPoint village • yorksHire

The United Apartments’ family welcomes you to Mt. Pleasant and wishes you all the best in your pursuit of gold, silver, and bronze. May you always find joy, confidence and fulfullment – on the field and in life.

INSIDE Building a dynasty: Special Olympics Michigan celebrates its rich history in Mount Pleasant »PAGE 4

One for the kids: Younger athletes train for future competitions »PAGE 6

Lighting the way: Carrying the torch to the summer games »PAGE 8

A gracious perspective: CMU football players volunteers at many events

Practicing with a purpose: Doctors offer free medical service to athletes »PAGE 12

Downtown Mount Pleasant: A treasure trove for tourists »PAGE 14

An army of helping hands: Special Olympics volunteers share stories, memories »PAGE 16

Special Olympics 2014 Summer Games Schedule »PAGE 17

»PAGE 10

Central Michigan Life

436 Moore Hall, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI 48859 • (989) 774-LIFE • Editorial   Ben Solis, Editor-in-Chief   Dominick Mastrangelo, Associate Editor  Malachi Barrett, Reporter


Kris Lodes, Reporter


Orrin Shawl, Reporter  Taryn Wattles, Photographer 989.772.2222

Alex Gonzales, Advertising Executive

Professional staff   Dave Clark Director of Student Publications Kathy Simon Assistant Director of Student Publications  Rox Ann Petoskey Production Leader Dawn Paine Production Coordinator Tricia Kierst Business Manager

s g in t ee r G


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from t he ity commun

George E. Ross

Welcome to Central Michigan University! On behalf of Central Michigan University, I extend our warmest welcome to each athlete, family member, coach, volunteer, chaperone and spectator during these summer games. It is our honor and privilege to be your host for the forty-second time. Several events happen on campus each year that cement the CMU Chippewa legacy. Graduation is a hallmark event, as is the August arrival of freshmen for “Leadership Safari” — a weeklong, teambuilding experience that prepares students for college and beyond. Likewise, we cheer the arrival of the Special Olympics Michigan State Summer Games. Yes, your three days here are as special as the arrival of each new class of students and the ceremonies that launch them a few short years later as leaders. Thank you for teaching and inspiring us. Thank you for beckoning us to remember the value of hugs, high-fives and those endless smiles that celebrate the inevitable victory of hard work. Enjoy the games. Most sincerely,

George E. Ross

President, Central Michigan University

Sharon Tilmann

Welcome to Mount Pleasant! As mayor, it is my pleasure to welcome the Special Olympians, their families and event volunteers to the City of Mount Pleasant! We are honored to be the host city for the 2014 Special Olympics Michigan Summer Games. We are confident that you will be pleased with the wonderful parks, leisure areas and conveniences our city has to offer. Our residents love the “big city” amenities with small-town service and charm, and we are eager to share all of this with you. We hope that during your short stay with us you will find time to explore all that makes our city a great place to live and work. While out exploring, be sure to visit the GKB Riverwalk Trail/Access Adventure Trail. This scenic 1.8 mile long trail includes a 10-foot-wide universally accessible path that includes a glass paneled bridge that allows for an all-access view of the beautiful Chippewa River. Please ask a local volunteer for directions! Best wishes to the competing athletes. We hope you enjoy yourselves, have success in your events and make memories that will last a lifetime.

Sharon Tilmann

Mayor of Mount Pleasant

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Building a dynasty Special Olympics Michigan celebrates nearly half a century in Mount Pleasant By Ben Solis & Orrin Shawl Editor-in-chief & Staff Writer

Eunice Shriver overlooks Soldier Field during the1968 summer games

Courtesy Photo | Special Olympics

Eunice Shriver with athletes at the 1968 summer games

Courtesy Photo | Special Olympics

For Michigan adults and children with disabilities, the Special Olympics Michigan Summer Games are one of the few chances they’ll have at showing the world – and themselves – exactly what they’re made of. Living with a disability day to day can be a bigger challenge than most people could ever fathom, whether those challenges take the form of physical impairments or social isolation from their peers. No one knew that more than Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of slain American President John F. Kennedy. Shriver’s other sibling, Rose Kennedy, lived with a cognitive disability. As they grew up with Rose, she watched as others excluded and isolated her from social, leisure and other sporting activities. In a response to her sister’s plight, and to ensure that people living with disabilities everywhere would be judged only by the content of their character, Shriver started the first Special Olympics in 1968. More than 40 years later, Michigan’s Special Olympics organization is set to host a record-setting 2,829 athletes at the 2014 summer games at Central Michigan University. The games will also host about 3,400 coaches, volunteers, family members and will even feature an appearance by former “American Idol” contestant and Mount Pleasant native Shubha Vedula. Special Olympics Public Relations Coordinator Aaron Mills said it is the most athletes who have signed up for the games in the last eight years. “I don’t know what to attribute to that,” Mills said. “We just have more people coming out to do it. We’ve seen an increase in the number of athletes, and we’re all about it.” The three-day event will start on May 29 when the runners in the Law Enforcement Torch Run take the torch that signifies the start of the games at 10 a.m. from Lansing to Kelly/Shorts Stadium, where it will arrive 6:30 p.m. Vedula will sing the National Anthem at the beginning of the games, along with some of her own songs. She will also be signing autographs on May 30 with David Paquette, last year’s SpartanNash Stores 2013 Healthy Athlete of the Year. From Friday on, sporting activities will be on display around CMU’s campus, such as the Unified Soccer Clinic, the rowing challenge competition and drop-in Zumba. Most of the events will take place at the stadium, the Indoor Activities Center’s Turf Bay, and the outdoor and indoor IAC track. Heather Burke, SOMI’s director of sport and training, said the summer games will feature 96 total events going on, including two new clinics for indoor kayaking and tennis. “There are 13 different sport events to a degree, not including field events,” she said. “We’re also having a Project Unify day on Thursday, which will include bocce ball, bowling and soccer.” The Project Unify program is designed for K-12 students to partner with students with cognitive disabilities, Burke added. Other than its service to families and people with disabilities, the Michigan Summer Games also is known as one of the largest volunteer venues out of any CMU event. Zachary Warner, SOMI’s coordinator of sports and training, said the games will have roughly 980 volunteers signed up to help move the event along smoothly. However, Some of those slots are from groups like SpartanNash — the sponsor of the event — which brings in 15 to 25 volunteers, moving that number to more than 1,000 volunteers this year.


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“Eunice Kennedy Shriver is a pioneer who literally changed the way persons with intellectual disabilities are treated “The oldest volunteer is 79 years old, the youngest one is seven years old,” Warner said, speaking about the diversity of the kinds of people that volunteer each year.

A lifetime in Michigan While the first event began in the ’60s, Michigan was one of the organization’s founding delegations. Michigan formed its statewide Special Olympics competition within the first year of the games’ existence. Originally hosted in Kalamazoo at Western Michigan University, the organization’s state headquarters was founded in Adrian. In 1973, the state summer games moved north to CMU, where it has called home ever since. Its statewide headquarters followed suit a year later. The first summer games had 1,600 athletes and more than 200 volunteers, all of which were CMU students. That number has grown exponentially, and volunteers now include not only CMU students, but athletic coaches and local medical staff. Special Olympics Michigan needed to settle into a different place other than Adrian with the necessary resources and an enthusiastic community, Mills said. Mount Pleasant left such a good impression after the games were held here for the first time that the organizers decided the town was indeed the best option for a new home. Mills added that it was a big deal back then for Mount Pleasant to get the games because it was the fourth city to ever host the International Special Olympics summer games. Other international games were located in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. “(They) were the first cities to ever hold the International Special Olympics Summer Games, which is crazy when you think about it,” Mills said. “That involved athletes from all over the world coming to Mount Pleasant.” With the advent of social media, the Special Olympics Michigan summer games have a new global appeal, reaching far outside the confines of the Great Lakes. According to recent Facebook trends, Mills said, SOMI has the second most “likes” than any state program for Special Olympics in the country. “We’re just shy of 14,000, which is solid,” he said. “A lot of it is word of mouth at this point. The more people know about what’s going on with SOMI, the more they’ll want to have us in their Facebook and Twitter feeds.” Like the athletes who compete, the games in Mount Pleasant have truly lived up to the challenge, and continue to show the world exactly what it’s made of.

and viewed, not only in the United States, but around the world.” — Nelson Mandela

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Wesley Waite participates in a parachute game during a Young Athletes event.

Courtesy Photo | Special Olympics Michigan


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One for the kids Special Olympics Young Athletes program an avenue for child athletes to compete in summer games By Dominick Mastrangelo Associate Editor

In many ways, the odds have been stacked against threeyear-old Preston Rollison since the day he was born. His hearing is significantly impaired, he has poor sight and the Waterford boy was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth. However, nothing will stop Preston from having fun or competing with his friends this weekend at the Special Olympics Michigan Summer Games. Rollison is one of 20 children who will participate in the Young Athletes program, which offers opportunities for athletes younger than eight years old to compete the same way the adults do each year. His mother, Roxanne, said she is grateful for everything the program does for her family since her son’s first involvement just months after he was born. “I’ve always focused not on what Preston can’t do, but what he can do,” she said. “I can’t imagine life for him or for our entire family without the Special Olympics and this program.” Children are not eligible to compete in the summer games until they are eight years old. Fitting with the original mission of the games, and to allow more involvement for children younger than the cutoff age, the program was created 2007 after an overwhelming amount of parents called for their child’s inclusion. The activities young athletes participate in as part of the program consist of walking and running, balancing and jumping. The program has served more than 100,000 children in 21 countries worldwide. It is funded almost entirely by private donations. Young athletes are encouraged to have fun, no matter their athletic ability or developmental stage. “The idea is for young, potential athletes to gain social skills as well as stay active and eventually be able to compete in the games once they are old enough,” said Anne Rogers, the program’s coordinator. “It also helps parents come together and talk about some of the issues they face. There is a great deal of bonding going on. It’s really incredible to see.” For Sarah Waite and her three-year-old son, Wesley, the games have been an attraction that has brought much joy to their lives each summer. Wesley has been participating in the Young Athletes program since he was four months old. “We were hooked right away,” said Waite, of Clare. “Over the past few years, I have watched his development, his mobility, his social interaction, so much just advance and improve. It is so encouraging.”

Being around other children with similar disabilities and athletic aspirations has been a fun and formative experience for Wesley. “He finally gets to fit in. He can just be a normal kid,” she said. Many young athletes participate year-round in the various fundraisers orchestrated by Special Olympics Michigan each year. Wesley, for example, leads “Wesley’s Warriors,” in the popular Special Olympics Polar Plunge fundraiser, an event that has given Waite an opportunity to gain advice from or share stories with other families.  “These are some of the best friendships I have made,” Waite said. “We share some of our challenges and some of the joys we all share. We all know how much each child young athletes has progressed. It’s a great discussion to have.”  Aaron Mills, Special Olympics Michigan’s public relations coordinator, said the Young Athletes program is unique in that regard.  “A lot of parents were just waiting for something like this to come along,” Mills said. “Wesley is just a fun-loving kid. He’s come so far. He is just one example of the good this program has done.” Parents often receive resounding positive feedback from outside professionals working with their children thanks to their participation in the program.  “Some of those professionals say they have seen a very noticeable difference in things such as balance and agility even after only a few weeks in our program,” Anne Rogers, Program Coordinator for Young Athletes said. Aside from the many benefits displayed through the growth of the athletes, many parents get a great deal of pride and satisfaction out of the program as well – especially fathers of young athletes, Rogers said.  “A lot of them have dreams of being a coach,” she said. “This gives them an opportunity to fulfill what they thought was not going to happen.” To Rollison, and her resilient and fun-loving son Preston, the program is invaluable.  “Where we would be if he was not involved in this program, I don’t know,” Roxanne said. “I just get a lump in my throat when I see him so successful with all of this. The organization really cares about these kids.”  “He is just going to be so much better off because of it.”

The program is for young, potential athletes to gain social skills as well as stay active and eventually be able to compete in the games once they are old enough

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Lighting the Way State and local law enforcement continue 30-year tradition of carrying the torch to Special Olympics Michigan Summer Games By Malachi Barrett Senior Reporter

At the opening procession of the 2014 Special Olympics Michigan Summer Games, the Law Enforcement Torch Run will celebrate its 30th year of being the largest grassroots fundraiser and public awareness vehicle for the organization. As a 20-year veteran of the run, Michigan State Police Lieutenant John Card said the ideals of law enforcement coincide with the meaning of the quasi-marathon. “If you look at law enforcement as the protectors of some of society’s most vulnerable people, I’ve always thought this was a good match,” said Card, who also serves on the Torch Run’s executive committee. “I’m very thankful for the health and well-being of my family members and I knew giving back was always the right thing to do.” The heart of the event is a type of marathon run in which Michigan police officers carry the “Flame of Hope” torch to the opening ceremonies of local Special Olympics competitions and state and national games. Starting in Lansing on the steps of the Capitol building, 50 runners carry the torch during five-mile legs nonstop to Kelly/Shorts stadium in Mount Pleasant for the start of the summer games. Internationally, more than 85,000 volunteer law enforcement officers participate in the torch run throughout the world, raising more than $461 million since the event’s inception in 1981.  Founded by Wichita, Kansas Police Chief Richard LaMunyan, the torch run was created as a way to involve police personnel in the community and to support Special Olympics. Card said the torch run encompasses a variety of fund and awareness raising efforts aside from the initial marathon event. “We learn lessons from the (Special Olympians) too,” Card said. “They go back and pick up ones who fall and as much as they wanted to win, they wanted to make everyone feel like a winner. Those are lessons that we can learn from.” Roughly 70 miles from start to finish, the Michigan event is run at a grueling pace. Garth Burnside, the assistant division commander of the Biometrics and Identification Division of the Michigan State Police, was selected this year to carry the flame to the steps of the Capitol. Burnside’s daughter has cerebral palsy and became involved four or five years ago with Special Olympics Michigan fundraising. This year, he started a comedy show in Ann Arbor as a fundraiser for the event, as well as regularly participating in the Polar Plunge fundraiser in Mount Pleasant. “When I got involved it was really just through fundraising, and then I went up to the games and handed out medals (one

year),” Burnside said. “John (Card) always said you do it once and you’ll never miss one again and he’s right. To be able to start it off from the steps of the Capitol has to be one of the highlights of my career.”

BRAVING THE RUN The five-mile legs are run at an 8-mile pace, Burnside said, which isn’t too difficult for trained runners. Participants basically run twice a day, 24 hours a day. When they are done with a leg, the officers retire to a motor home. Most runners who train to run a marathon train twice a day at the most, but the police might run three times a day during the event. The lack of recovery time is what wears on them. “There are other events along the way that you may want to get involved with. You may want to run again with some athletes who join you or with other departments,” Card said. “We’ve had folks run over 100 miles in five days. We have people who train for marathons and say this is harder.” This year, Byron Chief of Police Tim Sampey will be running in the final leg of the event, effectively acting as the last courier of the torch into Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant. He said it will be an incredible honor to represent law enforcement in the final stretch. CMUPD Lieutenant Riley Olson was originally nominated to light the torch, but he declined. It was an honor to be nominated, Olson said, but he said he would much rather stay behind the scenes of the event. However, Olson’s contributions to the race are much more vast than he lets on ­— Olson has been involved in the torch run and the summer games for about eight years. He is now CMUPD’s liaison for the Special Olympics. This year, Olson organized a motorcycle escort for runners entering Isabella County, setting up an armada of patrol cars from the Isabella County Sheriff’s department and the Warthogs Motorcycle Club, a law enforcement-based motorcycle organization. Olson came to CMU in 2000 as a student studying secondary education with a concentration in special education. He eventually transferred and became a police officer but said seeing how much enjoyment the athletes get out of seeing the men in uniform makes being able to still work in those areas worthwhile. “It’s just fun and a good atmosphere to be,” Olson said. “The athletes are so excited to see you there and the police motorcycles and they think its great that we hand out medals to them. I think we as law enforcement probably get just as much enjoyment.”

Internationally, more than 85,000 volunteer law enforcement officers participate in the torch run, raising more than $461 million since the event’s inception in 1981.


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Supporting the Home Team CMU football players find inspiration while volunteering at Special Olympics Michigan Summer Games By Kris Lodes Senior Reporter

Special Olympics Michigan impacts the lives of many young athletes, but it’s the athletes who aren’t participating who might be most affected during the summer games. In 2010, Central Michigan University tight end Deon Butler didn’t know volunteering for three days in the summer would forever change his life. “When I first started I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” Butler said. “After doing it for a couple of years, it really turned out to be the best thing in my life.” When he arrived on campus for Special Olympics Michigan wearing his No. 15 jersey, Butler was greeted by smiling kids wanting to meet him. “They come up to me and make me feel special,” Butler said. “Anybody who can come put a smile on my face, if I can put one on their face, it’s the best thing in the world.” One of the competitions the football team hosts is the powerlifting event. The players put on the weights and motivate the competitors who in turn motivate the Chippewas. Many players see the athletes compete; they see them giving 100 percent in each lift. It drives the players volunteering when it comes time for them to train for the upcoming football season. “The football team and I are amazed how much they lift,” Butler said. “Even the ones who can’t lift that much, they give their best effort. It opens our eyes that we can push for more in our daily lives like they push themselves in their lives.” Butler’s experience isn’t out of the ordinary. Head football coach Dan Enos has seen similar results out of all his athletes who have volunteered at the summer games. “It’s unbelievable the amount of gratification our

players and coaches get out of helping others out,” Enos said. “A lot of the guys don’t know what to expect going into it. When they’re done, the feedback we get is unbelievable.” The football program is involved in the community in many ways. They’ve been known to help out at the soup kitchen, make hospital visits and help out people around the community. But there is something special about Special Olympics. “Having Special Olympics on our campus is a unique thing,” Enos said. “To have the state summer games here is pretty cool and it is something we’ve been involved in since I’ve been here. I don’t who gets more out of it, the athletes themselves or our players.” Butler would argue the football players get more out of it thanks to the unique friendships that form between the football team and the special needs athletes. During his first year helping out, he met a swimmer, Diane. The two have stayed in contact. “She is an amazing woman,” Butler said. “That atmosphere around people and the impact (Special Olympics) has on people by volunteering and being yourself is amazing.” The atmosphere of Special Olympics and the impact Butler has made on Diane’s life and many other athletes has pushed him to find his calling in life. The games not only put Butler’s future at CMU in perspective, but it helped direct him to majoring in Child Development. “It made me thankful for having this scholarship to play at Central and get an education,” Butler said. “It really directed me down the (academic) area of child development. It showed me God gave me a gift to put a smile on kid’s faces and change lives. I never had a father figure, but I can be that role model in kids lives.”

“They come up to me and make me feel special. Anybody who can come put a smile on my face, if I can put one on their face, it’s the best thing in the world.” Deon Butler Central Michigan University football tight end


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Victoria Zegler File Photo

Monroe resident Diane Gilertson, 63, left, dances with Detroit junior Deon Butler to the oldies hit “Shout!” during a victory dance following the 2013 Special Olympics Michigan State Summer Games during closing ceremonies Friday night at the Student Activity Center.

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Practicing with a purpose Volunteer doctors offer free medical services for Special Olympics athletes during summer games By Dominick Mastrangelo Associate Editor

Having worked with Special Olympics Michigan as an athlete physician for 15 years, Dr. Phil Irion has helped give routine medical checkups to those who might need it the most. “Getting to help people who for whatever reason can’t or don’t get help is not something every doctor gets to do,” Irion said. “It’s definitely the best thing I’ve done in optometry during my time.” Like many Americans across the country, many athletes competing in the Special Olympics Michigan Summer Games this weekend have little to no health insurance. To compensate for the lack of medical care, Special Olympics International implemented the Healthy Athletes Program, which has helped provide medical screenings and various other forms of medical care for registered participants in the year-round games. Special Olympics Michigan creates an “athlete village” for its athletes to receive services provided by volunteer health professionals. Housed inside the Indoor Athletic Complex’s Turf Bay, the services are rendered at no cost to the athletes and their families. Some of the services athletes can receive include check-ups in oral hygiene, vision loss and occupational therapy. In addition, Blue CrossBlue Shield of Michigan — ­ the primary sponsor of the program — provides opportunities for athletes to engage in healthy physical activities, like dribbling a soccer ball or push-up contests. Ann Guzdzial, chief program director at Special Olympics Michigan, said the healthy athletes program is unique compared to other programs or services the company offers in terms of its scope. “This program helps so many people,” she said. “Not only are our athletes able to get medical assistance they would not be getting otherwise, but these health professionals are getting training doing their craft, as well. It is a huge volunteer effort.” In 2012, Special Olympics Michigan conducted 561 oral screenings as part of the program. Doctors in the program were able to identify and diagnose a number of gingivitis cases among the athletes; it was reported that 45.7 percent of the athletes screened had symptoms of the gum disease. The same year, 49.5 percent of athletes screened were diagnosed as “obese” after participating in the FUNfitness portion of the three-day program. In 2013, a total of 2,937 athletes were screened for various medical issues. For Dr. James Seals of Alma, catching illnesses or ailments that would have otherwise gone undiagnosed is why medical professionals continue the work that they do. Doing that for the athletes — free of charge — is a rewarding bonus. “We (the health professionals) get as much or more out of it than (the athletes) do,” Seals said. “To be able to help someone get something done (that) they might not be able to get done, you just know you are doing a good thing.”

For Irion, fulfilling his Hippocratic oath is only a small part of why he volunteers. Instead, he does it for the lasting impact he’s able to make on the athletes. One of those athletes, a young girl he outfitted with prescription underwater goggles, even won one of her swimming events because of his volunteerism. “She came up to me with a beaming smile saying ‘Dr. Phil, Dr. Phil!’” Irion recalled. “She had medals around her neck, and I thought she was going to tell me all about how she had won them. No. She had found me to tell me she had seen the bottom of the pool for the first time.”

AREAS OF ASSISTANCE Special Olympics Michigan offers seven sub-programs, all designed to promote a healthy lifestyle and engaging community involvement and awareness of various illnesses. They include:

Opening Eyes: Vision screening, refractive testing, glasses fabrication, and sunglasses and protective eye wear. Special Smiles: Dental screenings, education about proper brushing and flossing and the importance of diet to oral hygiene, mouth guards for contact sports, and referrals to community providers for necessary dental care. FUNfitness: Surveys general exercise habits, assesses flexibility, functional strength and balance and aerobic fitness, provides education about home exercises to improve performance, and facilitates community referrals as needed. Healthy Hearing: Screenings to test hearing acuity, custom swim earplugs, minor hearing aid repairs, consultations on hearing aids and noisy environments and recommendations for medical or audiological evaluations. Fit Feet: Evaluations of the skin, nails, bones and joints of the feet, examinations of the function of the feet and gait, and examinations of athletes’ socks and shoes. Health Promotion: offering health information and advice in the areas of nutrition, sun safety, bone density, tobacco cessation, and physical fitness. Health Promotion is designed to convey and reinforce key concepts on healthy living, healthy lifestyle choices and other health issues. MedFest: The MedFest program recruits volunteer physicians to provide the required physical examinations for people who wish to register in Special Olympics.


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Courtesy Photo | Special Olympics

Healthy Athletes

Health Promotion

Courtesy Photo | Special Olympics

“This program helps so many people. Not only are our athletes able to get medical assistance they would not be getting otherwise, but these health professionals are getting training doing their craft, as well. It is a huge volunteer effort.� Ann Guzdzial Chief Program Director, Special Olympics Michigan

Joshua Huver/File Photo A Special Olympian from the city of Detroit, Area 26, has her cornea checked during a vision screening by optometrist Brian Dornbos, 26 of Grand Rapids on behalf of the Opening Eyes Healthy Athletes Program during the 2013 Special Olympics Michigan State Summer Games Friday at the Indoor Athletic Complex.

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Small town feel,

big city

appeal Taryn Wattles | Staff Photographer Downtown Mount Pleasant offers small shops and idiosyncratic eateries, giving the city a sense of distinctive charm.

Mount Pleasant a treasure trove of fun for tourists and Special Olympics Michigan families

By Ben Solis Editor-in-chief

“We’re firm believers in holding events that are opportunities for interesting economic development drivers, but Special Olympics goes beyond being just another economic driver. It’s one of those events that makes you feel good. It’s a definite high mark for the community and the city.” Michelle Sponseller Downtown Development Director

Whether it’s the niche appeal of unique downtown restaurants or the ability to trek its wooded areas with ease, Mount Pleasant has much to offer to visitors. As a long-time resident, Michelle Sponseller has had a front row seat to the growth of Mount Pleasant from a city with the usual trappings of a college town to a vibrant spot for year-round tourism. “Mount Pleasant is in a central location in the state, and its park system is tremendous,” said Sponseller, Mount Pleasant’s downtown development director. “But we’ve also done simple things to encourage greater tourism; simple things like encouraging more events or being more open and friendly to the business community.” When Central Michigan University hosts the Special Olympics Michigan Summer games, as it has for more than 40 years, the event brings a whole new set of eager visitors to the city: The families and friends of Special Olympics athletes. While Mount Pleasant has broad appeal to tourists around the country, Sponseller said having Special Olympics Michigan and its annual games headquartered in the city is a particular point of pride. “We’re firm believers in holding events that are opportunities for interesting economic development drivers,” she said. “But Special

Olympics goes beyond being just another economic driver. It’s one of those events that makes you feel good. It’s a definite high mark for the community and the city.” During the games, athletes of all ages stay in the CMU residence halls, giving them a total immersion experience to engage in activities outside the games. From a parent’s perspective, the housing of athletes at the halls gives them a chance to get out on their own and enjoy the city. For Sponseller, the options offered around town range from the relaxing to the intellectually stimulating. Boasting its serene and interconnected park system, Sponseller said the city’s natural attractions can be a peaceful distraction for family members. Mount Pleasant’s interim city manager, Nancy Ridley, said the park and trail system is a major gem in terms of Mount Pleasant’s must-see attractions. To keep up the attractive lure of the park and trail system, the city spends more than $500,000 a year maintaining the area, Ridley added. Aside from its parks, Ridley said Special Olympics families can visit the many restaurants and shops in the downtown area. “Generally, the only part of town most people see is the area on Mission Street. Many don’t know that


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we have a downtown area,” she said. “In reality, the city only comprises an area of 7.8 square miles, so it’s hard for those who don’t know the area to understand where the city starts and ends.” Chris Rowley, the executive director of the Mount Pleasant Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said the restaurants with an agricultural edge are big draws for statewide and national visitors. “There’s a big movement toward agricultural tourism. Places like Max & Emily’s, The Brass Cafe and Mountain Town Station all use local produce,” Rowley said. “It’s a unique set of stops for foodies.” Even though many of the families will be here solely for the games, ready to cheer on their athletes as they compete, Ridley said the atmosphere of the town is quick to rub off on those that get a chance to appreciate it. Most of all, that affection helps lay the groundwork for these families to come back throughout the year. “What I like about Mount Pleasant is that it has the safety of a small town, but has all of these opportunities for fun things to do,” Ridley said. “Special Olympics brings in hundreds of volunteers and families. It’s an uplifting event, but it brings so many people – it really gives them a chance to see what Mount Pleasant has to offer.” Taryn Wattles | Staff Photographer

Nelson Park is easily accessible to visitors and residents alike, offering serene surroundings to take a stroll.



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16 | May 29-31, 2014


Central Michigan Life

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Building a loyal army of helping hands Special Olympics volunteers share their stories, memories of games past By Malachi Barrett Senior Reporter

Helping so many young athletes live their dreams of competing in a rigorous set of athletic games, it’s hard to tell who benefits the most from the work of Special Olympics volunteers. For those who tirelessly dedicate their time and energy to helping Special Olympics Michigan year round, like Mount Pleasant residents Barry and Sherry Trombley, it is equally fulfilling to interact with the unique athletes who travel to Michigan to compete in the games. The Trombleys have worked as volunteers with SOMI for six years, and have learned much about themselves and helping others. Sherry, a speech therapist, has had experience working with children with disabilities before attending her first games — an experience that has helped her be successful at interacting with the athletes. As soon as she started volunteering, she said she was hooked. “Parents know their kids have limitations, but to see (their kids) climb on that podium and get a medal and be a star for a day, it brings tears to your eyes,” Sherry said. Globally, Special Olympics mobilizes an army of more than 500,000 volunteers year-round. Barry is a retired Michigan State Police Trooper, and has spent 27 years of his time within an institution of highly dedicated and focused individuals. Despite his hardnosed experience with the troopers, he said it was impossible not to be impressed by the determination of the athletes. “Some of these kids are great athletes and very talented, but even those who aren’t as talented will compete and they will finish no matter what because they are doing their best,” Barry said. “If you watch these kids literally drag themselves across the finish line, you will never complain about a sore ankle or leg for the rest of your life.” Aside from the summer games, the Trombleys participate in multiple Special Olympics events throughout the year. Their work with Special Olympics includes volunteering at the snowshoe races during the Winter Olympics games in Traverse City, as well as track and volleyball during the summer games. As the Trombleys have devoted their time to the games, they’ve accumulated a host of inspirational stories, most of which have come from the track races. Together, the Trombleys have nearly an inexhaustible bank of treasured moments garnered from their volunteering. Sherry said her favorite memory was watching a young girl in the swimming competition fight through the race after everyone else was finished. “You would think she was winning the gold medal. The entire place was thundering with cheering” Sherry said. “She fin-

ished and pumped her fist and said, ‘I didn’t touch the bottom!’ That was her big deal, that she finished and never touched the bottom of the pool.” Most of all, Sherry said she enjoys the participants’ spirit of camaraderie and the praise and acts of encouragement among the spectators and athletes constantly on display. She describes the excitement among the athletes as infectious to all those who come in contact with them. Throughout the weekend, the athletes can be seen with their medals clanging around their necks, meanwhile clapping or using sign language to cheer on teammates and opponents. Haslett senior Scott Thrun became involved in volunteer work after going to Special Olympics events his cousin with Asperger’s syndrome participated in. When Thrun came to CMU last year he started working the winter games and regional events, as well as the Unified Intramural league at CMU. This is his first time volunteering at the summer games. “I’ve learned more from them than they have for me,” Thrun said. “I think the main reason I do it is to show them they aren’t alone, that they are part of society, to have them know that there are people out there who care about them.” When you walk in the door you can feel the energy that something important is happening, Thrun said. There isn’t a single frown in sight, whether or not the athletes come in first place. “It’s uplifting, it’s an extremely positive place to be,” he added. There are two types of people who volunteer, those who are lukewarm and those who stay for life, Thrun said. He is the latter, and would  love to stay involved even after his time at CMU is over. “There’s really not much you can do to persuade people. It’s something you have to experience for yourself. It’s really amazing,” Thrun said. “Everyone that I volunteer with they have keep coming back just try it once.” One of his favorite memories was made over the past two years of his volunteer work at the winter games. In the first year Thrun met a boy who was from the same area and they got to talking and made a connection. As the year went on, he didn’t have any contact with the boy. The next year, Thrun was working the same event and the boy recognized him immediately, embracing Thrun like an old friend. “He came up to me screaming my name. That was really cool that he remembered me,” he said. “The friendships you make there not only with the volunteers but the athletes really sticks with you.”

“Some of these kids are great athletes and very talented, but even those who aren’t as talented will compete and they will finish no matter what because they are doing their best.” Barry Trombley Retired Michigan State Police Trooper, Special Olympics Volunteer


May 29-31, 2014 | 17

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Wednesday & Thursday - may 28-29


Event Location

1:30 p.m. Area director meeting 6:00 p.m.

SAC Nirsa Room

Volunteer banquet Comfort Inn

THURS (cont.)

Event Location

2:00 p.m. Medical center opens

Rose Training Room

2:00-7:00 p.m.

Souvenir stand

3:00-10:00 p.m.

Shuttle bus

3:30-6:00 p.m.

Delegation dinner

Dinner Merrill, Robinson & Woldt

SOMI Office

2:00-4:00 p.m.

Finance meeting

Library-Strosacker Room

10:00 a.m. Torch Run Capitol ceremony East steps of the Capitol Building

4:00-6:15 p.m.

Parent/family/volunteer tailgate party

Due by 4:30 p.m. Athlete drops and corrections SOMI Nerve Center or Info Booth

5:00-6:00 p.m.

VIP reception

12:00-4:00 p.m.

Project Unify bocce tournament

Various Locations

5:45 p.m.

Parade line-up starts

Kelly/Shorts Practice Field

4:00-5:00 p.m.

Project Unify youth rally

IAC Indoor Track

6:00 p.m.

Housing corrections due

Residence Hall Front Desk

5:00-6:00 p.m.

Project Unify dinner

Under Press Box

6:15 p.m.

Delegation pre-seating

Kelly/Shorts Stadium

12:00-4:00 p.m.

Delegation arrivals

Residence Halls

6:30 p.m.

Parade and opening ceremonies

Kelly/Shorts Stadium

12:00-4:00 p.m.

Rowing challenge-practice

IAC Football Bay

8:00-9:30 p.m.

Kiwanis carnival

1:00-4:00 p.m.

Opening Eyes vision screening

IAC Football Bay

10:00 p.m.

Coach/chaperone safety meetings

Residence Halls

1:00-6:00 p.m.

Info/volunteer check-in booth

SAC Lawn

10:00 p.m.

Doors locked

Residence Halls

THURSDAY 9:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m. Nerve Center

IAC Lawn Continuous Loop

Lot 64 Kelly/Shorts Stadium

Rose Ponds


2014 Special Olympic State Summer Games Participants

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18 | May 29-31, 2014

Central Michigan Life

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has received the

embrace of the sun and we shall see the

results of that

love. - Sitting Bull

The Tradition Continues Between a University and a Nation.

Working Together for our Future

FRIDAY 6:30-8:30 a.m.


Event Location Delegation breakfast

7:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m. Nerve center

SOMI State Office

7:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m. Shuttle bus Continuous Loop 7:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Information/Volunteer Check-In Booth 8:00-12:00 p.m.

Board of Directors Meeting

8:00 a.m.-noon


SAC Lawn Library-Strosacker Room Sport Venues

8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Opening Eyes

IAC Football Bay

9:00 a.m.-noon

IAC Football Bay

Rowing Challenge-Practice

9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Healthy Athlete Village IAC Football Bay Special Smiles, Med Fest, MICHIP Program, Fit Feet, Health Promotions,Spartan Stores “To Your Good Life”, TRAIN 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Healthy Hearing 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Unified Volleyball Clinic

IAC Testing Center Field between SAC & Track

10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Parent Family Expo 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Special Events

Rose 125/126 Rose Pond Area

10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Drop-in Zumba

Outdoor SE

10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Souvenir Stand

IAC Lawn

10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Delegation Lunch Noon

Sponsor Tour

CMU Press Box

12:45-5:00 p.m.


Sport Venues

2:00-4:00 p.m.

Rowing Challenge Competition

3:00-4:30 p.m.

Celebrity Autographs

3:30-6:30 p.m.

Delegation Dinner

4:00-5:30 p.m.

Moose Riders Arrival

Kelly/Shorts Stadium

4:30-5:30 p.m.

Unified Soccer Clinic

Kelly/Shorts Stadium

5:30-6:00 p.m.

Rev It Up Reception & Recognition

Kelly/Shorts Stadium

5:30-6:30 p.m.

Parent/Family Reception

6:00-6:30 p.m.

Moose Ride Procession to Stadium

Kelly/Shorts Stadium

6:30-7:00 p.m.

Autograph, Meet & Greet with athletes

Kelly/Shorts Stadium

7:00-9:00 p.m.

Closing Ceremonies/Victory Dance

Kelly/Shorts Stadium

7:00-9:00 pm

Open Bowling


Venue Volunteer Appreciation

10:00 p.m.

Doors Locked

IAC Football Bay Event Center Atrium Robinson, Merrill & Woldt

Niirsa Room, SAC

SAC Lanes Riverwood Golf Course Residence Halls


May 29-31, 2014 | 19

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SATURDAY - may 31

Delegation breakfast

7:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. Shuttle bus Continuous Loop

9:00 a.m.-noon 10:00 a.m.-noon

7:30 a.m.- 2:00 p.m. Information/volunteer

Check-in booth SAC Lawn

10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Souvenir stand

IAC Lawn

Sport venues

10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Special events

Rose Pond Area

7:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. Nerve center

SOMI State Office

8:00 a.m.-noon


8:00 a.m.-noon

Opening Eyes

9:00-11:00 a.m.

Parent /family/hospitality

9:00-10:30 a.m.

YAP Healthy Athlete opportunity

9:00 a.m.-noon

Healthy Hearing

11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. YAP competition

Rose 125/126

IAC Football Bay

1:00-4:00 p.m.


Sport Venues

IAC Testing Center

3:30-5:00 p.m .

Delegation dinner

5:00 p.m.



to Mount Pleasant!


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We also do | 989-317-4800 | Stadium Mall 2332 Catering! Text ISLAND3 to 30364 for special offers. S. Mission Mt. Pleasant

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Special Deals for our Special Guests!

Welcome Special Olympians!


Outdoor SE

SAC Hall of Fame Room

MAY 30 - JUNE 1


IAC Football Bay

10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Delegation lunch


MT. PLEASANT (989) 772-0394

Special Smiles, Fit Feet, Med Fest, Health Promotions,TRAIN, MICHIP Program, Spartan Stores “To Your Good Life” Drop-in Zumba

IAC Football Bay

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20 | May 29-31, 2014


Central Michigan Life

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