Volunteers are needed as the Special Olympics PA Carbon County prepares to start bowling hockey training for the 2009-10 season.

Those who volunteer would be asked to help athletes during training, as well as on the day of competition, according to Sheri Anthony, SOPA volunteer co-coordinator.

"Any time you are able to give is very much appreciated," Anthony said. "Spending time with our athletes is a very rewarding experience; those of you who have spent time with our athletes this past year, I'm sure would agree as well."

The first training session at Fritz Lanes in Lehighton will be held from 6-8 p.m. Friday, Anthony said. Training will be held at the site every Friday night from 6-8 p.m. for 10 consecutive weeks, she said.

All told, Anthony said about 22 volunteers are needed at the site, which is handicapped accessible.

The first training session at Haja Lanes in Palmerton will be held from 3-5 p.m. Sunday, she said. Training will be held at that site every Sunday afternoon from 3-5 p.m. for 10 consecutive weeks, Anthony said.

In all, about 10 volunteers are needed at that site, which is not handicapped accessible.

Anthony noted the group will take off from training for two weeks for the Christmas Holiday.

"We look forward to working with all of you," she said. "Thank you in advance for your interest and continued support."

The mission of the Carbon County branch of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and opportunities for competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities thereby fostering for them respect, dignity, and acceptance.

In 2006, Carbon was the only county in the state without a Special Olympics program. With the assistance of the Northeast Pennsylvania Special Olympics Field Director, the strong support of the Carbon County Commissioners, and the commitment of a dedicated group of volunteers, a Carbon chapter was created.

By the spring of 2007, SOPA held its first competition in bowling. Less than a year later, programs in track and field and floor hockey were added as the county's first athletes participated in advanced competitions on the regional and state level.

In June 2009, the county sent a delegation of 19 athletes and coaches to the State Summer Games held at Penn State.

At present, the county serves 60 athletes in three sports with the support of more than 90 registered volunteers who assist in planning, training and competitions.