Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Students, volunteers get in the game

Special Olympics Invitational Winter Games hit Sun Valley?s Nordic trails

Express Staff Writer

Boxes of handmade, donated scarves are sorted through at the Boise headquarters of Special Olympics of Idaho. Photo by

During the 2008 Special Olympics Invitational World Winter Games, happening now in Boise, Tamarack and Sun Valley, one of the ways the organization has sought to involve citizens is to pull in an educational aspect. Specially selected young leaders with and without intellectual disabilities will gather in Boise to dialogue about compassion, diversity and respect, as exemplified by the Special Olympics movement and athletes.

Among the selected youths, representing five Idaho districts, are students from the Wood River Valley: Sean Sutton, Miranda Williams, Chauncy McGraw and J.T. Sutton.

The youths will relay Special Olympics messages through a televised youth forum, conducting real-time "webinars" linking schools and youth programs around Idaho, writing blogs, providing podcasts for downloading and writing essays. Each day, they will team up with fellow youth leaders and chaperones to attend Special Olympics events and meet and interview athletes, coaches and visitors, and later share their observations and experiences at their own schools. They will attend opening and closing games, and on the last day, participate in a live Web conference, where they will share their experiences during the Invitational Games with Idaho schools.

Following the summit and leading up to the 2009 World Winter Games in Boise, the youth leaders will serve on a Special Olympics Global Youth Advisory Council. They will be responsible for recruiting peers to join the Special Olympics movement, through information sharing, Web casts, e-mails, chat rooms and blogs, as well as serve as media "spokesteens."

These youths will also participate in the global summit during the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games with approximately 60 youths from all over the world.

The Special Olympics Invitational World Winter Games continue today in Sun Valley:

Cross-country at Sun Valley Golf Course

Wednesday, Feb. 27

8:30 a.m. Athletes arrive

10 a.m. 3K Finals

11 a.m. 500M Finals

11:45 a.m. 100M Finals 50M Finals (follows 100M)

1:30 p.m. 1K Finals

2:30 p.m. 4x1K Traditional Relay Finals

3:30 p.m. 5K Finals

Snowshoe at Sun Valley Golf Course

Wednesday, Feb. 27

8:30 a.m. Athletes arrive

11 a.m. 100M Finals

Noon 25M Finals

1:30 p.m. 400M Finals

2 p.m. 200M Finals

2:45 p.m. 1600M Finals

3:15 p.m. 50M Finals

4:15 p.m. 4x100M Traditional Relay Finals

Dinner Sun Valley Inn's Continental Room

Thursday, Feb. 28

If needed due to postponements from weather-related issues or other Games delays. Otherwise departure date for athletes.

For more information, go to

The Scarf Project

The Special Olympics athletes are wearing the colors of the games, delft blue and white, around their necks. The scarves were created by volunteers from around the state who just wanted to be involved in this international athletic event held for people with intellectual disabilities. This small, warm-and-fuzzy drive overwhelmed volunteers at the Boise headquarters. By opening day of the Invitational Winter Games on Monday, more than 1,000 hand-knit scarves had flooded the offices. The athletes wore them during the Opening Ceremony at Taco Bell Arena in Boise.

"We always do a gift for the games. I thought, 'Is there any way to do something special?'" said Laura Cushing, Special Olympics senior director of special projects. "Each one is unique. They are crocheted and knitted. They have tassels and snowflakes. It makes a connection to the athletes. Each one has a personal note attached. We'll hand them out right before opening ceremonies. It's a touching moment in a chaotic world. People are knitting for next year now."

Along with the scarves are handwritten notes from each of the knitters, such as this one from a woman in Eagle:

"Dear Athlete, Welcome to Idaho. We are so excited to have you here with us. I wish you the best in all your competitions. We will be cheering you on. I also hope you enjoy the scarf that I made. Hopefully it helps keep you warm. Good luck out there."

"They're coming in by the hundreds," Special Olympics CEO Chip Fisher said. "One woman knit 65 of them. The outpouring is unbelievable. We needed 600. We now have over 1,000. This is fun. Talk about a community getting behind something!"

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