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Special Olympians bring their best shot to Moses Lake

Columbia Basin Herald - 1/21/2019

Jan. 21--Print Article

MOSES LAKE -- It's not quite basketball tournament time, but it's getting close -- time for those regional and sub-regional games. That's what Special Olympics teams were doing at Moses Lake High School and Chief Moses Middle School Saturday.

Saturday's winners advance to the regional tournament at Washington State University in Pullman. Winners there advance to the state tournament in Wenatchee during the first weekend in March.

Players were all ages, from children to "you name it," said Grant Opland, senior manager for the Special Olympics east region. The tournament attracted 27 teams, said his daughter-in-law Richelle Opland, one of the organizers. Participating teams came from Moses Lake, Yakima, Wenatchee and Tri-Cities, among others.

Players and teams are organized according to skill level, Richelle said. There's a unified division, an adult version of the high school program that pairs players with Special Olympians. Teams in a second division are all Special Olympians. There are separate divisions where people can show team skills and individual skills.

"We want to offer competition" for Special Olympians, Grant said, the same experience as everyone else. "Inclusion," he said.

Sometimes there's still a social stigma around people with special needs, Grant said, and Special Olympics is one way to help reduce that. His niece was involved in Special Olympics, a team needed a coach, and Grant volunteered to help, he said. He's been coach and administrator ever since, and on Saturday got out on the floor as a referee.

Special Olympians "get the joy of competition," Richelle said, and the social benefits of being on a team.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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