A special group of about 40 athletes from across Ohio County spend the entire year participating in different sports. The Ohio County Eagles range in age from under 10 to over 50, and have all levels of disabilities.
Matt Angalich is one of the team members, he plays softball, track and flag football, and said football is his favorite sport.
Larry Goodwin said he plays in the softball league, and he always has a good time. His family comes out to support him and watch him play at nearly every game. His sister Danielle serves as his unified partner and gets to play the game with him as well.
Another athlete, Andrea Emerick, a 2012 graduate of Wheeling Park High School, said basketball season is always her favorite.
Other sports that athletes compete in include, track and field, swimming, and bowling.
During the year, the athletes get to travel the state and play against other counties. They stay in hotel rooms together and get to attend their favorite part of Special Olympics, the “Victory Dance.”
“They’re able to have that socialization that most people get, that don’t have special needs,” said Pat Elliott, the Director of Special Olympics in Ohio County. She has been involved for nearly a decade, even before she had her own child with special needs.
She said the athletes are able to balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and that is what makes them so successful.
The Eagles just finished up their softball season. “It’s just great all together, being able to play with everybody,” Larry’s sister, Danielle Phillips said.
Pat said while the athletes get to make friends and have fun together, she thinks the coaches, volunteers, and partners that benefit the most. “I think you learn everybody has abilities and I tend to look at my athletes for the abilities they have instead of their disabilities. And it just draws you closer and you really just value what they can do,” she said.
The Eagles are getting ready for volleyball and flag football, which will get started in late August.
If you are interested in volunteering with Special Olympics, contact Pat Elliott at: firstname.lastname@example.org.