Bowling tournament celebrates local Special Olympics athletes

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If you go

What: Yampa Valley Special Olympics Bowling Tournament

When: 2 p.m. today

Where: Snow Bowl, 2090 Snow Bowl Plaza

Cost: Free to attend. The tournament is for Special Olympics athletes; spectators are encouraged.

Call: Snow Bowl at 879-9840 or Mike Dwire of Horizons at 871-4800, ext. 104

— This afternoon, 35 athletes will march out to Olympic music, recite the Special Olympics oath and compete in a tournament that’s two months of training and more than 15 years of tradition in the making.

The regional bowling tournament is for Special Olympics athletes from Routt and Moffat counties. Competition starts at 2 p.m. today at Snow Bowl and is sponsored by Horizons Specialized Services, the Special Olympics, Knights of Columbus Post No. 4462, Snow Bowl, HBA Steamboat, Tony Carlson and NMM Real Estate.

“It’s just going to be fun,” said Mike Dwire, vocational specialist at Horizons. “It’s going to be a big deal for these guys.”

Participating athletes have practiced bowling with members of the local Knights of Columbus post and the Horizons staff for two hours every Saturday for the past two months. At today’s tournament, each competitor will get a medal, a bowling towel and other prizes for competing, Dwire said.

“They get a really good sense of socialization and companionship because it’s not just open to Horizons clients, it’s open to anyone who meets the Special Olympics qualifications,” Dwire said. That opens the bowling program up to school-age athletes, though none are participating this year, he said. Athletes also get a sense of competition and accomplishment from the event, he said.

Kevin Kaminski, grand knight for Knights of Columbus Post No. 4462, said his group members sell Tootsie Roll candies to raise money for the annual bowling program. This year, the effort brought in just more than $1,400, he said. Club members also help Special Olympics athletes with bowling, a practice effort Kaminski described as “a crazy good time.”

“They range anywhere from ramp bowlers to pretty darn good bowlers, guys that could beat me any day,” Kaminski said.

Horizons clients have the opportunity to participate in Special Olympics events throughout the year. There’s a track and field competition in the spring, a softball tournament in the summer, and ski racing in the winter.

Each fall, the Horizons team looks forward to the bowling program, Dwire said. In years past, a few athletes have traveled to a state tournament in Denver. Today’s tournament replaces that overnight trip, and is open to more athletes.

“It’s going to be really fun, and anybody who comes is going to see a lot of smiles,” Dwire said.

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