Basketball season has started around Champaign County, and the Champaign County Special Olympics is no exception. The organization sponsors two teams for basketball season, with games beginning in January 2019.
All home games will be played on Saturdays, as the schedule was made with the intention of using the Champaign Family YMCA as the teams’ home site, however, Urbana City Schools stepped in and agreed to allow the Special Olympics to use both the Bill “Skeeter” Moss gymnasium at the old high school and the newly-built junior high’s gym.
“I just think it’s a good opportunity for them and anything we can do to help the community out is great for Urbana City Schools,” Urbana Athletic Director Dan Shay said. “I think it’s awesome and Special Olympics is such a special organization, we love to help them out any way we can. Actually, we’re looking at track, too.”
Co-coordinator and coach Alfredo Gutierrez was thankful for the opportunity.
“Maybe next year we can play some during the week. We didn’t know we were going to get the high school this year,” Gutierrez said.
Currently, the Special Olympics sponsors six sports in Champaign County: Basketball, volleyball, cheerleading, weight lifting, bowling and track.
“We have six sports that we now play in this county. Just three years ago, we were only doing three. We basically want the public to know that we exist. We have a lot more sports than we did three years ago. We’re trying to grow the Olympics,” Gutierrez said. “(There’s) lots of great things going on and we would like to put it out to our community. We already see the great things our Olympians do, and we’d like others to see it too.”
Gutierrez got involved in the Special Olympics because of his son, Michael, who is an Olympian. He stuck around for the relationships he was able to build.
“Because of him, I am dedicated to Special Olympics. I got involved because of him, but somewhere along the line I started to get so much in return. I enjoy working with all of the players. I have been involved with programs for the disabled since 1990,” Gutierrez said.
The organization is especially excited about the annual game with law enforcement, with a March contest date to be determined.
“We bring in local law enforcement to play against them. Each Olympian gets to bring a guest player – someone special in their life. They all really like law enforcement, so it’s a big thing for them,” said Amy Johnson, who coaches the other county team.
Champaign County Special Olympics welcomes new athletes, volunteers and donors.
“Individuals with any sort of physical or cognitive disability may participate. There are no specific guidelines as to types of or degree of disability that I know of. Individuals without disabilities can also participate on unified teams,” Co-coordinator Kim Dunn said.
To volunteer, donate or request more information, contact Gutierrez at 937-206-5682 or Dunn at 937-308-6870.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1775) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.