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June 9, 2013

Special Olympics tradition at ISU enhanced with new bocce ball court

TERRE HAUTE — Few events bring as many people to Terre Haute annually as the Indiana Special Olympics Summer Games.

Thousands of athletes, volunteers, coaches, family members and others cram into the city for one action-packed weekend each year, and this year has been no exception.

The Summer Games take place at Indiana State University, Rose-Hulman and at two local bowling alleys. Most events take place at ISU, which has a long history of close association with the Indiana Special Olympics.

Two ISU faculty members, Tom Songster and Judy Campbell, founded Special Olympics Indiana in 1969. The Summer Games moved to the campus the following year and have remained at ISU nearly every year since.

For 20 years, the Special Olympics Indiana headquarters was on the ISU campus before moving to Indianapolis around 1990. ISU students, faculty and staff also make up a large part of the Summer Games volunteers.

This year, the appeal of the ISU campus for the Summer Games was enhanced with the addition of a dozen new frames for bocce ball courts on Paul Wolf Field. The frames, made of a strong rubber downspouts, were made possible by donations from the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility.

Monna Van Skyock, who oversees the bocce competitions, was thrilled with the new frames, which she said are based on designs seen at national bocce competitions. The specifications were given to the correctional facility and inmates and staff volunteers did the rest.

“They did way beyond what was asked of them,” Van Skyock said.

The new frames were made possible by correctional facility staff and also inmates taking part in the Purposeful Living Units Serve (PLUS) and Responsible Fatherhood programs.

Bocce is one of the most popular events at the Indiana Special Olympics Summer Games with more than 230 matches set for this weekend. Matches will continue today beginning at 8:30 a.m. and wrapping up at 10 on Paul Wolf Field.

Not only did the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility provide the new frames, volunteers and minimum security inmates set them up prior to the competition, Van Skyock noted. The WVCF will also store the equipment until next year, she said.

Two of the athletes to compete in bocce Sunday were Maria Mitchell and Brett Hiquet of Hendricks County. They were celebrating receiving bronze medals after playing Saturday morning. Hugging for a photograph, the competitors showed the enthusiasm and spirit so common at the Summer Games.

“I’m the champ,” Mitchell said. “I love [Special Olympics]. I like my team.”

Although now living in Hendricks County, Brett Hiquet is originally from Terre Haute, noted his parents, Peggy and Alex Hiquet, who were at the games to cheer him on. The family lived in Vigo County 44 years and only recently moved, they said.

“We’ve had lot of friends come down to cheer Brett on,” Peggy Hiquet said after the medal presentations.

The Summer Games is the biggest Special Olympics event in Indiana annually. ISU has also hosted the Indiana Special Olympics Men’s Basketball championships since 1971.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com

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