By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Special Olympics swimmers are making a big splash as nearly half of the group’s swimmers qualified to compete at Special Olympics Ohio’s State Aquatics Swim Meet on Dec. 5 and 6 at The Ohio State University’s McCorkle Aquatics Pavilion.
“We’re so happy about our athletes qualifying for the state finals,” said Penny Hilty, local coordinator for Groveport Special Olympics. “Our younger athletes who are new to Special Olympics are especially excited.”
Special Olympics Ohio provides year round sports training and competition opportunities in a variety of Olympic type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Hilty said nine of the 21 members of the Groveport Special Olympics swim team qualified for the state finals by meeting the state time requirements for the 25 meter and 50 meter freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly swim events.
“They’ve done so well and we’re so proud of them,” said Hilty of the athletes.
Groveport Special Olympics, a local chapter of Special Olympics Ohio, formed earlier this year and includes athletes from Groveport, Canal Winchester, Madison Township, Hamilton Township, and Reynoldsburg. The group currently offers bowling and swimming. The swim team, coached by Terri Aeling and Kristin Hayes, competes in the indoor swimming pool at the Groveport Recreation Center. The bowling team, which competes at Eastland Lanes and is coached by Tina Garriott, has six members, but Hilty said three more athletes plan to join the team.
“We’re also looking to add volleyball in April and are also considering adding some other sports in the future,” said Hilty. “We’re very appreciative of the Groveport Recreation Center and Eastland Lanes. We couldn’t have done this without them. The community has also responded very positively. The program gives these athletes great opportunities they can’t get anywhere else.”
Carrie Gibbons of Canal Winchester, a Groveport Special Olympics athlete who competes in both bowling and swimming, said she likes Special Olympics because, “I like meeting new people and it keeps me busy. I like being busy.”
According to the Special Olympics Ohio website, participating in Special Olympics helps the physical, social, and psychological development of the athletes as well as to help build a positive self-image, which carries over into the classroom, home, job and community.
“You can see the look of pride on their faces as they compete,” said Hilty. “It has opened up some of them quite a bit and helped build their confidence.”
She said the athletes are encouraged to try a sport and to have fun.
“We have one athlete, a bowler, who at first said, ‘I don’t want to swim,’ but then they tried it and now they qualified for the state swimming finals.”
According to Special Olympics Ohio, athletes must be at least eight years old and identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions: intellectual disability, cognitive delays as measured by formal assessment, or significant learning or vocational problems due to cognitive delay that require or have required special instruction. Special Olympics Ohio, Inc. is a non-profit corporation funded through private and corporate donations and fundraising projects across the state.
For information about Groveport Special Olympics, contact local coordinators Penny and Cassandra Hilty at email@example.com or at (614) 395-8992 or 395-6640. Donations may be sent to Groveport Special Olympics, P.O. Box 296, Groveport, OH 43125.
Groveport Special Olympics will hold a community fundraiser at Bob Evans, 4019 Hamilton Square, Groveport, (just north of U.S. Route 33 on Hamilton Road) on Nov. 17 from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and is valid on dine in and carry out. Bob Evans will donate a portion of sales to GSO when presented with a flyer. Flyers can be obtained through Groveport Town Hall, Southeast Library, all schools in the Groveport Madison school district, or from a GSO athlete. For information contact Penny Hilty at (614) 395-8992, Cassandra Hilty at (614) 395-6640, or GroveportSpecialOlympics@gmail.com.