Champaign County Special Olympics teams will play a three-game basketball exhibition against local police officers in the Bill “Skeeter” Moss gymnasium at the old Urbana high school on Saturday beginning at noon. Twenty-three Special Olympics athletes from Urbana High School will compete against officers from the Urbana, St. Paris and Mechanicsburg Police departments, according to Urbana Police Officer Todd Pratt, who helped to recruit the players.
All are invited to attend to watch the exhibition free of charge.
“I, for one, love the community activities,” Pratt said. “I volunteered for all the community stuff, and I think it’s just a good way to mix and mingle and to get those kids to know us better other than just in a uniform, that we can be people like anyone else and we can have fun and we’re approachable. Maybe if they’re more comfortable they can put a face to the uniform if they ever need anything.”
Pratt said that while working at a recent Urbana High School basketball game he jumped onto the court during the Special Olympics exhibition. He said many players were shocked to see him participate.
“I see them quite a bit because I also work special details for the high school basketball games, university games, and I’ve actually met them through there,” he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of them and they get a kick out of us, They like to beat us in the basketball game. They enjoy that. They look forward to beating us every year. They do a lot of teasing of us, so it’s a good time. It’s all in good fun.”
Special Olympics sponsors six sports in Champaign County: basketball, volleyball, cheerleading, weight lifting, bowling and track. Individuals with any sort of physical or cognitive disability may participate, with no specific guidelines as to types of or degree of disability.
“We have six sports that we now play in this county. Just three years ago, we were only doing three,” said co-coordinator and coach Alfredo Gutierrez. “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. 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.”
This is the third year for the celebrity event, and the second year Urbana Police have been involved.
“I just hope people come out and watch and see how bad we get beat,” Pratt said.
To volunteer, donate or request more information, contact Gutierrez at 937-206-5682.
Christopher Selmek can be reached at 937-508-2304