From bowling to basketball and soccer to softball competition, three-thousand Special Olympics athletes from all 50 states are shuttling around Ames participating in the first-ever Special Olympics U-S-A National Games. Rich Fellingham, president of Special Olympics Iowa, was part of the team that convinced national Special Olympics officials that Ames should be the site for these inaugural. “After having World Games every four years and always holding them in the United States the World Games are now being taken outside the United States because the Special Olympics has grown to a world-wide organization in 170 countries so the decision was then made that Special Olympics should have national games in the U.S.,” Fellingham says. “Three years ago it was announced that Iowa should host the first-ever games.” Since then there have been hours of planning and fundraising, all culminating with the opening ceremonies on Sunday in Ames. “We’re really excited about hosting these games, especially since they are the first ones,” Fellingham says. Fellingham and other organizers determined they’d need about eight-thousand volunteers to run the games smoothy and they had about 10-thousand-five-hundred sign up before applications closed. Fellingham says Ames won the bid to host the first-ever National Games not only because of the sports facilities available in Ames, but also because of the number of volunteers the organization could count on to turn out. There are no tickets to attend the events, and Fellingham encourages folks to make the trip to Ames to cheer on these special athletes. “There’ll be about 10,000 family members that are coming to watch their athletes participate but there’ll be a lot of states coming from a distance that won’t have that family support,” Fellingham says. “We want to see the people come out and enjoy the games and support all of these athletes.” A special area has been created that Fellingham calls the “Olympic Village” where athletes and spectators can mingle outside the fields of competition. Fellingham says there’ll be interactive games, entertainment and other activites so it’s a “place where everybody can come together.” There’s also a quiet area set aside just for the Special Olympics athletes and their coaches. In the past year more than two-million children and adults with intellectual disabilities have participated in Special Olympics events in more than 150 countries. Special Olympics was founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver to give people with intellectual disabilities a way to celebrate physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship with their peers. The games kicked off Sunday, July 2 and conclude July 7th. Athletes are competing in aquatics, track and field, basketball, gymnastics, powerlifting, bowling, tennis, golf, softball, bocce ball, soccer and volleyball.
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