Special Athletes Compete in 36th Annual DuBois-Jefferson County Special Olympics

5:4 Ayden Shaffer-Doan throws softballPUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. — Wednesday was a special day in Punxsutawney as Jack LaMarca Stadium hosted the 36th Annual DuBois-Jefferson County Special Olympics.

(Ayden Shaffer-Doan, right, gets some help in the softball toss from his mother, Karen Shaffer, and brother, Anderson Shaffer-Doan, during Wednesday’s DuBois-Jefferson Counties Special Olympics in Punxsy. Photo by Scott Shindledecker)

Hundreds of competitors and their helpers enjoyed near-perfect weather while taking part in events such as the 50-, 100-, and 200-meter dash, running and standing long jump, softball throw, and turbo javelin.

Everyone could also take part in the Olympic Village activities.

Kids and adults came from communities large and small in DuBois and Jefferson County, including Brockway, Brookville, Punxsutawney, Fayette Resources, Soaring Heights Academy, NHS High Point, and New Story.

Started in 1968 on a national level, Special Olympics in DuBois-Jefferson County got off the ground in 1980, holding its first track and field meet.

Punxsy’s Frank Hetrick had been involved in Special Olympics in the 1970s while a student at Indiana University of Pa. After he became a teacher in the DuBois Area School District in 1979, a fellow life skills teacher talked about wanting to get Special Olympics started in the area.

“I told him I had been involved with it in college at IUP and that I wanted to be involved with it,” Hetrick said. “I just love the day. The kids love it, it’s their day in the sun, their day to enjoy one another’s company.”

The day’s events began shortly after 10 a.m. with the parade of athletes, followed by the National Anthem by the Punxsutawney High School band.

The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Punxsy athletes Scott Bowser, Elijah Goodbread, and Adrionna Fetteman while it was signed by students in the DuBois School District Life Skills and Multi-Disabled classes.

After Dr. Thomas Frantz, Punxsy SD Superintendent, gave his welcoming remarks, Brockway and DuBois athletes sang “One Small Voice.” Big Run Methodist Church Pastor Dawn Krishart gave the invocation, then Brookville Special Athlete Janae Cassatt led the Special Olympics oath.

The Olympic Torch run was performed by Tristan Coder (Brockway), Shane Claus (Brookville), Jonny Keen (DuBois), Sarah Kephart (Fayette), Devin Dempsey (New Story), Sam Winter (Soaring Heights), Makenna Truman (NHS), and Cody Sanner (Punxsy).

Janelle Frederick, the athlete representative for DuBois-Jefferson County, opened the games, and the competition began.

Volunteers included Hetrick, Mary Frederick, Terri Britton, Dawn Coulter, ARC of Jefferson and Clearfield counties, Punxsy Band parents, Autumn Berfield, Stephanie Cable, Steve Davis, Melissa Henery, Stacey Truman, Rich Alexander, Cris Dush, Jack Matson, Tim and Ann Hechler, and Dennis and Mary Jane Knox.

Athletes must complete a minimum of eight weeks of training in their particular sport. City/county programs offer a local competition for all sports. If, however, due to low training numbers, a program cannot offer a local competition, athletes can participate in invitational competitions being offered by nearby programs.

Special Olympics uses a unique form of divisioning for competition based on age, gender, and ability so that every athlete has a reasonable chance to excel while competing.

In situations where there are not enough competitors to hold competition in a certain age group, the athletes are moved to the next oldest group within the same ability range.

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