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June 8, 2014

SPECIAL OLYMPICS: Athletes, coaches, volunteers and family members from across state — and beyond — enjoy yearly gathering

TERRE HAUTE — The fun of competition combined with making new friends and seeing friends from years past kept smiles on the faces of most participants at the Special Olympics Indiana Summer Games on Saturday.

Spread out along the athletic fields of the Indiana State University campus, the games featured more than 2,500 Hoosier athletes, in addition to more than 1,000 coaches and chaperones, another 1,200 volunteers, and countless spectators and families.

“My favorite thing is meeting all the friends and seeing people from other counties,” said Anthony Ingram, an athlete from Putnam County.

This was his first year participating in the bocce event, having made the switch from bowling because he began having knee problems.

“I thought it was gonna be hard,” Ingram said, after he and a partner won a morning match and were waiting for their afternoon challenge.

Among the sports offered were aquatics, bocce, bowling, cycling, horseshoes, powerlifting, track and field, and volleyball.

The Putnam County team sent 65 people — athletes and coaches — to the three-day event.

Long-time coach and volunteer Anita Edenfield said she has been coming to the games for 20 years.

“We were just doing the horseshoes,” she said of the group she supervised, “but we kept watching the others play bocce, so we decided to do bocce about six years ago.”

Bocce was one of the more popular sports this year. Special Olympics Indiana spokesperson Duchess Adjei said the 12 bocce courts, which are 12 by 60 feet, were made by the Indiana Department of Correction, which also installed them for the games. In the sport, participants must through balls 30, 40 and 50 feet toward a pallina, or target on the ground.

About 225 bocce sets — three games make a set — were set with two and four players per team.

Also among the volunteers helping at the games was Debbie Carter, a Rockville native and ISU graduate who has moved to Seattle, Wash., where she works with troubled youth at a native American reservation.

Carter said she happened to be in the Terre Haute area for the weekend, and she learned about the event through a local church, so she wanted to volunteer because she had helped at in previous years. She was giving her time in the food services tent.

“I told them I probably got the award for traveling the farthest to volunteer,” Carter said, laughing.

Adjei said the Wabash Valley community has been very welcoming to the Special Olympics, and ISU has been a good host for the event.

“The Terre Haute community has been awesome,” she said. “The fact that when you’re coming into Terre Haute and you see the signs that are up, you know the businesses and companies are making an effort to welcome us.”

Coach Edenfield, who works as a speech pathologist, said she enjoys seeing the athletes take pride in their accomplishments during the event.

“It’s a lot of preparation and planning, but when I get here, and they start the competitions,” she said of the athletes, “and you see how excited they are, I’m hooked.”

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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