Months of training culminated when nearly 500 Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners, peers without intellectual disability, from across the state showcased their skills at the Special Olympics Delaware (SODE) Bowling Tournaments held on January 9 in Dover and Milford. Participants represented Special Olympics Delaware’s five Area programs from across the state including Wilmington Wizards, Newark Dragons, MOT Tigers, Kent County Wild Kats and Sussex Riptide.
“Bowling is one of our most popular sports,” says Gary Cimaglia, SODE senior director of sports. “One of the neatest things about our athletes participating in bowling is that they can then transfer what they learn to other bowling opportunities outside of Special Olympics when they are invited by friends and family, which is a very popular thing to do, especially during the winter months.”
Special Olympics Delaware offers a level of competition for every bowler, regardless of ability. Events include singles, doubles, Unified doubles, bumper and ramp. Athletes and teams are placed in divisions based on 10-game averages. Gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded to first- through third-place finishers and ribbons to fourth through sixth place.
“For us it is always awesome to see the athletes perform as they have prepared over the season, some since October,” said Cimaglia. “It is gratifying for the athletes because they get to showcase their work and they realize that this is their day.”
Special Olympics Delaware began in 1971 with the mission to provide sports training and competition to athletes with intellectual disabilities. Since the program began, they have helped more than 3,700 young men and women achieve their athletic goals, proving that no disability is too great to overcome. Providing competition for athletes from elementary school children to seniors across a spectrum of sports, SODE has also touched the lives of many volunteers as they feel the impact they create upon their community.
“For our volunteers, the bowling tournament is very rewarding as they are able to help athletes warm up, compete and see them accept awards. They are a part of the entire experience from beginning to end,” said Cimaglia. “You feel genuine emotion that our athletes experience and you see first hand the difference our athletes make.”