Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - 10 am—at the Historic Morgan Park High Middle School—and the opening ceremonies to the 2012 Area 3 Special Olympics Tri–fecta are underway.
Soon, athletes from Bemidji, Duluth, and the Iron Range will compete in basketball, swimming, and power lifting in hopes of progressing to the state competition in Minneapolis.
"This year we have about 120 athletes, we have over 50 coaches, over 70 volunteers," said director of the event Pat Stojevich.
Stojevich has been there since day 1, and funds the entire event through sponsors and profits collected every October—at the Morgan Park Haunted Shack.
"We handed the special Olympics, this year, an additional check for $8,000 to use as they see fit," said Stojevich, proudly.
According to Stojevich, securing volunteers for this event is as simple as making 4 phone calls—that's one phone call to each of the four boy scout troops that prove—year after year—they are more than willing to serve for a good cause.
"We've always provided the life guards, water safety staff, as well as adults helping with the staging and organizing," said Troop Master 13 Dave Blazevic.
Michael Kane—Vice President of area management for Special Olympics Minnesota—said the event is great for putting local talent under the spotlight, but it also aims to educate the athletes as much as it does encourage: "People with intellectual disabilities are 40% more likely to have a secondary, preventable health concern, such as obesity, or high blood pressure."
So, for the 2nd year running, athlete's checked in for a dental check up.
"We have dentists here volunteering their time from northern Minnesota, to take a look at our athlete's oral health," said Kane.
While the event this year was hailed by attendees as the biggest turn out to date, the news is bittersweet, as Morgan Park Middle School—home to the event since year one—will be closing.
Stojevich, however, remains hopeful—and said that he has been working with the local school district to find another location—potentially something even more accommodating.
"And if it does situate our needs, and it is a larger facility for us, we would actually like to bring in 3 more districts to Duluth, to add to this event," said Stojevich.
...going forward while athletes go for the gold.
As many as 15—hundred athletes are expecting to compete in Minneapolis next month at the Minnesota State Special Olympics.