The variety of sports provided by the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania, Carbon County, continues to grow.

Boccie, a sport played with wooden balls on a long, narrow court, is the latest to be added by the group.

Thus far, the group has held two practice sessions, according to Richard Nothstein, management team member.

Nothstein said the practices are held from 9-11 a.m. on Saturday mornings on the tennis courts at Palmerton Area High School.

The double boccie courts were constructed by contractor Harry A. Shupp, Aquashicola, and Bill George, owner of George's Plumbing and Heating, Aquashicola.

George donated all the materials for the courts, and with Shupp, designed many innovative techniques and features in the double courts, Nothstein said.

With the innovations, Nothstein said the courts can be assembled in less than 30 minutes.

The floor of the courts are lined with carpeting donated by the Foster's of Jim Thorpe Wholesale Flooring.

The group, also known as SOPA, provides athletic training opportunities to physically and mentally challenged individuals living in the county.

The mission of the Carbon County branch of SOPA 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.

The county serves the athletes in four sports with the support of registered volunteers who assist in planning, training and competitions.