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Special Olympics to be honored by chamber

Published October 16. 2009 05:00PM

One should never give up, because anything is possible for those who set their mind to it.

That's the belief the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania, Carbon County, ascribes to, and for good reason.

In honor of the achievements of the athletes and their coaches, the organization will be recognized as the 2009 Citizens of the Year by the Palmerton Area Council Chamber of Commerce.

Peter Kern, Palmerton Area Council president, made the announcement during the chamber's monthly meeting earlier this week.

There really can be no greater satisfaction than helping these athletes participate in activities that many thought were beyond their abilities," Kern said.

Kern said the award will be presented to the group at the annual meeting of the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce at Penn's Peak on Oct. 26. Social hour begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m.

At that meeting, each Chamber Council will honor a distinguished citizen or organization that has made a difference in the community, Kern said.

Those who have not already made reservations to attend the meeting may call the Carbon Chamber at 610-379-5000, or the Palmerton office at 610-824-6954.

Chris Anthony, trainer/competition coordinator, said the team plans to offer a fourth sports training program in the form of Boccie.

Anthony said SOPA is currently seeking volunteers for coaching and program leadership, as well as management team members to serve in a leadership role and meet once a month to guide the local program in its various activities.

The community, especially the business community, have been very supportive of our efforts to re-establish a chapter in the community," Anthony said. The program is now at the point where we're at a crossroads, and we're at a very critical stage in Carbon County right now."

Kern encouraged the organization to formulate a pilot that would specify exactly what the positions would entail.

I think what we need is a job description that says what is planned and what is needed." It's not just Palmerton, it's everyone."

Richard Nothstein, management team member, said the athletes have already provided him with an unforgettable moment.

When we gave out our first awards at the bowling alley, I was just so proud of the achievement of some athletes," Nothstein said. It was one of the most moving experiences I've ever had in my life, and was just very rewarding."

Anthony said the organization's foundation is firmly in place.

We've got a good base," Anthony said. We're just in need of some additional help from people who want to help out with a very worthwhile organization."

Nothstein said those who choose to join the organization won't regret their decision.

I think anybody that participates, you're going to get a bigger reward; it will be in your heart," Nothstein said. When I see my athletes do their thing, it makes me ashamed to even say I have an ailment."

Nothstein said others should take heed of the conduct displayed by the athletes.

The general atmosphere generated by our athletes would put professional athletes to shame," he said. It's too wonderful and too big a thing; I'm going to invest my time where it pays the biggest dividends."

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.

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