By Anne Roth
Each Sunday afternoon for the past eight weeks, a group of skaters at the Skaneateles Community Center rink practice their edges, spins and stops. They skate forward; they skate backward; sometimes they skate in pairs. Heading up their training is Sheila Card of the Center assisted by four volunteers: Mary Marshall, Kathleen Long, Joan Evans and Arlene Bloomer. What makes this group so special? They are developmentally disabled.
At 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 3 the Center will host its first ever Special Olympics, a competition that has brought sports to children and adults with intellectual disabilities for 40 years. You will be able to experience the group's diligence and competence first-hand as skaters from counties throughout the region join them.
For Bloomer the day will have special meaning. She explains:
"Ever since our retarded son, Peter, was in Special Olympics, we have felt it was a wonderful program for special needs kids. Before he died in 1982, Peter was a skater and won a bronze medal in the National Olympics. I have been working for about a year to begin such a program here in Skaneateles. With the help of Sheila Card our coach, Paul Reichert from Cayuga County ARC and Laurie Kennedy from the Special Olympics office in Rochester, we began with four skaters."
Parents and volunteers voted to name the team Peter's Angels. Members from Skaneateles competing are Victoria Sayko, Jack Belinski and Melissa Shillace. Medals will be awarded at the end of Sunday's competition.
Todd's Fund, established in memory of Christopher Todd Pitman who lost his life September 11, 2001 in the World Trade Center disaster, is the sponsor of Peter's Angels.
According to Kennedy, Special Olympics are for anyone who wishes to participate: athletes age eight and over, coaches, families, volunteers. It is an opportunity for participants to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy. Besides skating, it is hoped that there will be programming year-round at the Skaneateles Community Center in such sports as soccer, gymnastics and track and field.
To join Special Olympics as an athlete, volunteer, coach or to help with fundraising call 473-2933 or e-mail Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.