Special Olympics Victoriously Return To The Gorge

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Written by Ty Walker, Contributing Writer

Special Olympic Pose with Their Medals

Hood River Special Olympics athletes made a strong showing June 15 at the Oregon Regional Track and Field Competition at Clackamas High School. This year’s event was more than twice as big as last year, with 150 participants coming from across the region, Special Olympics local program coordinator Jim Meckoll said.

The Hood River team had 18 athletes compete at the track and field meet, as the Special Olympics returned to pre-pandemic form. COVID-19 dealt a heavy blow but the Special Olympics came out alive and well, providing sports activities and social interaction for the developmentally disabled.

“We just got back from COVID after being shut down for three years,” Meckoll said.

Teams from Clackamas, Clatsop, Hood River, Lincoln, Multnomah, Wasco/Sherman and Washington counties joined Hood River to participate in traditional track and field events as well as events tailored toward specific disabilities.

The Hood River Special Olympics program has about 50 athletes of all ages participating in sports year round, Meckoll said. They compete in everything from bocce ball, bowling and basketball to track and field, swimming and skiing.

“They don’t care if they win or lose,” he said. “They have a smile on their face whether they win or lose.”

Volunteer coaches from the community and sponsorships from local businesses like Mid-Columbia Association of Realtors® support Hood River Special Olympics. It is funded entirely by donations at the local level.

Organized by Mid-Columbia Association of REALTORS®, “Shred Day” is a major fundraiser for Hood River Special Olympics. People can have their personal and business documents shredded for a donation from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 9 at Rite Aid parking lot on Cascade Avenue.

Special Olympic Simming event

“Their support alone is huge and pays for a good deal of our transportation costs and uniform costs,” Meckoll said of Mid-Columbia’s fundraiser.

Mt. Hood Meadows is a supporter that gives the skiing program a big lift. About seven Hood River athletes participated last winter. “Mt. Hood Meadows bends over backwards and is just outstanding with their support of the Special Olympics,” Meckoll said. “They provide lift tickets, equipment and set out a race course for us.”

The skiing program sent a local skier to an international competition in Austria this year. Next on the schedule for Hood River team is the Special Olympics bocce ball tournament in Hillsboro at the end of July. Then bowling, one of the more popular programs, starts in the fall.

Meckoll became a volunteer for the Special Olympics when his daughter, Taylor, got involved as a kid. Now 20, she has participated in every sport they have.

“The big thing about the Special Olympics is the older athletes,” Meckoll said. “When they get out of school, their opportunity to do any of these things is so limited. There’s nothing for them to do.

“Social interaction is so important. For them to get out and do physical stuff, it’s critical for their well-being.”

Many volunteers come from local high schools to help coach the Hood River Special Olympians. But more volunteers are always needed. Call 503-467-7511 for information or email hoodriver@soor.org.

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