CHESTERTOWN, MD—Washington College and Special Olympics Maryland are joining forces to host the 2011 Unified Outdoor Bocce State High School Invitational on Thursday, May 12 in Chestertown. In this all-day event, slated to run from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., 250 Special Olympics athletes and their high school teammates will compete on Kibler Field in the Roy Kirby Jr. Stadium.
Nine Maryland school systems (Anne Arundel, Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, St. Mary’s, Talbot, and Wicomico Counties) will be represented by teams of six to eight, with half of each team’s roster comprised of students with an intellectual disability. The competition will start with an Opening Ceremony and end with the presentation of medals.
Washington College’s Student-Athlete Mentors, selected members of each varsity intercollegiate team who mentor other student athletes, will take time out of their final exam studies to staff the event. The SAMs organize a number of on and off-campus outreach efforts in order to achieve their goal of “creating a safer and more positive environment that reduces social hazards for student athletes.”
Washington College athletic director Bryan Matthews says the College and the Student Athlete Mentors, or SAMS, are excited to be hosting this first major Special Olympics event on the campus. “Special Olympics is a wonderful partner for our student-athletes and for any other members of the Washington College and Chestertown community who wish to volunteer,” says Matthews. “The Roy Kirby Jr. Stadium is a perfect venue for the Bocce Ball Tournament, and we look forward to welcoming the competitors and their families.”
Nate Garland, the V.P. of Field Services and Outreach for Special Olympics Maryland, says his organization anticipates building a lasting partnership with Washington College. “Washington College has a strong history of providing training opportunities to Special Olympics families in the Chestertown community, and we are ecstatic about hosting a statewide event that will further shine the spotlight on both our athletes and that beautiful campus.”
By partnering their athletes with non-intellectually disabled high school students, the Maryland Special Olympics’ Unified Sports Program helps break down stereotypes by promoting community, empowerment, and friendship between the two groups. Volunteers are needed to assist at the 2011 Unified Sports Bocce Ball Tournament in different shifts throughout the day. Volunteers will undergo online training to familiarize themselves with what they will be doing the day of; assistants will be needed to keep score, to act as officials, and to be athlete escorts to competitions and awards, among other things. To register, please visit http://www.somd.org/registration/2011/outdoorbocce2011.php.
A relatively new sport for Special Olympics, bocce was first introduced at the World Games in 1991.