Thousands of people are expected to converge on Okkodo High School's track on March 16 for the 43rd Annual Track and Field event for Special Olympics Guam.
Special Olympics Guam is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing sports opportunities for people with intellectual disability, and an equal opportunity for all regardless of ability or degree of disability. It is run entirely by volunteers.
Once limited to just a few events, the Special Olympics program has expanded to swimming, bowling, and softball annually. In the works is a move to incorporate badminton during the swimming season, because as organization president Frank Florig said, "Not everybody likes the water."
The Track and Field event may be a one-day show, but it is the culmination of a minimum of nine weeks of weekly training athletes must undergo to prepare. Athletes will compete in a variety of events, including standing and running long jumps, walks of various distances, various sprints and slaloms, wheelchair events, the shot put and softball throw.
"We even have an event called MATT, so those who have limited mechanical movement will have a sport to compete in too," said Florig, now in his 15th year as Special Olympics Guam president.
Florig says the number of participating athletes is around 300. The number of non-athletes who have come to volunteer and support is 10 times that he said.
"From the board room to the planning to the volunteers and to the sponsors, everything is voluntary. We don't pay anyone," said Florig. "Most of these people have full-time jobs. I can't stress anymore how much they mean to the Special Olympics. It's always been my dream that the community claim ownership of the Special Olympics and you know, I think we are already there."
For more information, call Special Olympics Guam at 648-7648.