Athletes of all abilities
EAGLE – When Donna Pratt and her family moved to the Vail Valley 25 years ago, her son, Jason, had just competed in his first Olympics. And he was ready for more. However, much to their surprise, Jason couldn’t find a team to train with in Eagle County. Jason is a Special Olympics athlete and, at the time, Eagle County had no Special Olympics’ association. “There was only one other athlete here who had a disability,” Pratt says. “So, we started it (Special Olympics) as a family.”Now, 25 years later, the Special Olympics in Eagle County has grown and Jason, as well as his fellow athletes, are getting ready to compete in the State Special Olympics bowling tournament on Nov. 11. The team recently competed in the regionals for Special Olympics, which were held in New Castle. “It went wonderfully, they had a good time,” Pratt says.
More than 2.25 million people in over 150 countries compete in the Special Olympics.
The Eagle County Special Olympics boasts many sports, aside from bowling. And, when you walk into the Back Bowl in Eagle, you can feel in the air how much fun these athletes are having. “They don’t always have the means to meet socially,” Pratt says. “This is a team where they can meet and get together, and besides that, they also get to compete.”Jason has Down Syndrome, which more than 350,000 people in the U.S have. Jason, 35, is living away from home with the help of Mountain Valley, the adult service agency for the Western Slope. Jason lives with two roommates and says loves it. He goes to the Avon Rec Center on a regular basis, and works at the Avon City Market.
Pratt says it was hard to watch her son grow up and not always be able to compete in sports like other kids. “All through school, kids can do sports,” Pratt says. “Some can, and some can’t … we try to fill that space.”Pratt says she loves volunteering with the Special Olympics, especially because she’s able to see first-hand how happy it makes her son and his teammates. “I know how important it is to Jason, and everyone,” she says. “They all love the camaraderie.” Pratt says it doesn’t matter what disability an athlete has. Volunteers will do their best to make it possible for anyone to play. For the athletes who don’t have the ability to throw a bowling ball down the lane, they made a ramp for them to roll it down, she says.”We find a way to help them do it,” Pratt says. “I think the Special Olympics has been one of the best things they have ever developed. It was missing for a long time.”
Pratt knows of about 26 Special Olympics athletes in the Vail Valley. And, she is always looking for more. Aside from bowling, the Eagle County Special Olympics athletes ski, snowshoe, swim and bike. “There are dozens of sports you can do, as long as you have the athletes and the volunteers,” she says. The main concern is just making sure they have enough volunteers, she says. “Some volunteers we’ve had for 10 years, but we try to get new ones every year,” she says. The State Bowling Special Olympics tournament will be held on Nov. 11 at the Brunswick Bowling Alley in Lakewood. The event will begin around 9 a.m., and last for most of the day.
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“I can’t think of a more worthwhile program,” Pratt says. This article first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado