For the first time ever, Special Olympians from Carbon County have qualified to participate in the National Special Olympics Competition to be held next year in Princeton, N.J.
Athletes, coaches, and volunteers gathered together Saturday because there is a registration book which must be completed by each athlete and they wanted to review it page by page to be sure its filled out accurately.
The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disability.
Special Olympics athletes participate in a wide variety of track and field events that are appropriate to the age and disability level of each individual.
It gives them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympic athletes and the community.
Carbon Special Olympians compete in four sports: athletics, bowling, bocce, and floor hockey.
Dave Rodrigues, competition coordinator for Special Olympics of Carbon County, said six track and field athletes who had participated in state games held at Penn State qualified to go to nationals in 2014.
Track athletes are Dan Klein, Dan Kurtz, Ryan Lee, Amy Williamson, Katie Groholtolski and Delina Rodrigues. Bocce athlete Shane Ahner also qualified.
"This is the first time that athletes of Special Olympics Carbon County will be going to Nationals," Rodrigues said. "The athletes will be participating as part of "Team Pennsylvania," not just Carbon County."
The national games will be held from June 14 to 21, 2014 in Princeton, New Jersey and surrounding areas.
The competitions are expected to draw 3,500 athletes, 1,000 coaches, 10,000 volunteers, 50,000 fans, and 8,000 family and friends.
Assistant Coach Chad Kurtz said the event will include a number of extra-curricular activities that will be taking place, including a dinner cruise around the Statue of Liberty and under the Brooklyn Bridge.
"I think it's going to be a really great experience for all of the coaches and athletes involved," Kurtz said.
Carbon County Special Olympics is in need of and welcomes volunteers. For more information visit the website at www.specialolympicscarboncounty.com .