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Vanover helps with almost 40 summer games

Richmond Register - 5/31/2019

May 31-- May 31--Over the last 40 years that Ervin Vanover has been involved with Special Olympics Kentucky, he says he has worn a lot of hats as a volunteer.

He has participated in nearly 40 summer games, and works with the Special Olympics throughout the year and offers track clinics for the state on an as needed basis.

But for Vanover, the day of the Special Olympics Kentucky Summer Games is the longest, hardest and most rewarding day of them all.

"You get to see a lot of people at the summer games, and where I have been doing it for so long, people know me and they come up to me, and it is just really good to see everyone," he said.

During the summer games, Vanover typically runs the softball throw venue -- a track and field event that he says is the second largest entered event in the Special Olympics.

Vanover, who lives in Danville, says that he became involved with the organization through his wife, who began teaching special education in 1977. While looking for something for her students to participate in, she chose the Special Olympics.

"She became an area director at the time, and I just started working with her too, and I ended up working as an area director with her for about 13 years," he recalled.

He also worked with the organization at the state level, saying that no matter what they asked, be it needing officials or running clinics, he would offer himself anywhere.

While his wife is not as involved as she once was, Vanover said that when they were doing it together, she was the brains -- and he "the brawn."

"We really were a great team," he said.

According to Vanover, he and his wife were instrumental in bringing the Special Olympics Summer Games to Richmond for the first time in the late 80s, early 90s.

He said that at the time, Madison County had a strong delegation within the Special Olympics, so the pair approached Eastern Kentucky University, who had never hosted the event before.

So they did. Once it was all said and done, Vanover said that the university called them to come back and made the pitch to do it every year thereafter.

This year will be the 25th consecutive year that the city of Richmond and EKU have hosted the Special Olympics Kentucky Summer Games.

"Eastern is very receptive to the games," he said. "I have been to a lot of universities with this organization, and Eastern actually, really bent over backwards for us."

Vanover said that he has a hard time putting into words just how much participating with the Special Olympics and in the summer games really means to him.

"It is very important for me to do it," he said. "It keeps me young and I am working with all age athletes. To me, the purest kind of sport is working with Special Olympics. These people, their name is not going to get in the paper much, but they work so hard to win and to get that ribbon. Just seeing them work so hard to win these things, that is what keeps me coming back."

This year, he said he is looking forward to the summer games because he has some children from his church coming to support them, and for those kids, it will be the first time they will get to see a university.

"I just really hope that it doesn't rain," he laughed.

While many people give credit to Vanover for his extensive service and dedication to the organization, he says that the hardest working people in group are the parents and the coaches. Often which, are one in the same.

"I am amazed at what they do, and what they have to do," he said. "Over all the years that I have done this, watching the parents and what they do, it is just so amazing. One of the best things is to have the parents come up and talk to you, because they know you."

Volunteers are still needed for several venues at the Games. For volunteer opportunities, contact Kelli Firquin at 800-633-7403 or

Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.


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