Our View | Special Olympics enhances, expands our community

We’re proud to welcome the Special Olympics Summer Games back to our region for the 27th consecutive year.

Opening ceremonies are set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

Much work goes into the event each summer at Penn State, with volunteers stepping forward to organize and host events across the campus.

We are blessed to have more than 2,000 athletes, and their coaches and families, in our midst for a few days — each smile reminding us of the value of the camaraderie and competition that are hallmarks of Special Olympics.

Reminding us of a community built upon good will.

“The Special Olympics defines what a community is all about,” the organization’s Eric Cushing said at the 2013 Games.

Thursday evening’s festivities will include the arrival of the Flame of Hope, delivered by runners from various law-enforcement agencies, and the Parade of Athletes onto Medlar Field.

Closing Ceremonies are set for 4:30 p.m. Saturday on the East Halls lawn.

Over three busy days, hundreds of volunteers will support the efforts of the athletes in such endeavors as track and field, softball, bowling, gymnastics, tennis, aquatics, golf, basketball and equestrian events.

Events will be held at venues including the Snider Ag Arena, Northland Bowl, Centre Hills Golf Course, Intramural Building, White Building, Sarni Tennis Facility and McCoy Natatorium.

“You have athletes, coaches, volunteers, law enforcement officials and the public who join together in a forum where they root on these individuals who are really going for the gold in all they do,” Cushing said. “This is really the highlight of the year.”

Sheetz Inc. is the event’s premier sponsor, and many other businesses and organizations contribute in significant ways to the success of the Summer Games.

The “Sheetz Family Award of Excellence” recipient will be announced Saturday. This honor goes to “one who has overcome obstacles to achieve greatness and whose performance is exceptional both on and off the playing field.”

That could describe many of the individuals who will be competing across the Penn State campus this week.

We urge our readers to stop by and cheer on the athletes and support the mission of Special Olympics.

Become a member of this life-changing community.