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Public invited to Special Olympics Round Up

Bemidji Pioneer - 9/4/2019

Sep. 4--BEMIDJI -- The emphasis of Special Olympics is evolving from participation to inclusion, according to Shannon Murray, school programs associate for the local organization.

"The last 50 years has been about opportunity and access, specifically for people with intellectual disabilities," Murray said. "We want the next 50 years to be about inclusion, How can we be together playing sports?"

Bemidji Community Special Olympics will host its first Round Up event from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5, at the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, 201 Third St. NW. The public is invited to attend and learn about everything that is offered, from year-'round sports to leadership opportunities, coaching and youth programming. Bemidji's program includes about 150 athletes.

"You can plug into Special Olympics in many different ways," Murray said. "We aren't reaching everyone that we could. It comes down to access and support. Some of our athletes have a ton of support and some have very little support."

Many people are unaware that anyone can participate in Special Olympics through the unified program. Murray, for example, plays on the local basketball team as a unified athlete.

"We want our communities to be integrated, to be together," Murray said. "Twenty years from now we want our kids growing up with their peers and maintaining those friendships just like everybody else does through high school."

"We need volunteers," said Karlene Melhus, whose stepdaughter, Terri, is both an athlete and a volunteer. "A lot of people don't know that it really doesn't take up much time. If you volunteer for someone in bowling, you meet them at the bowling alley or pick them up one day a week and it goes for eight weeks. Then you go to a state tournament. So it's really not that much of a commitment."


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