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Special Olympics kicks off at Presque Isle Middle School

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Friday morning, May 11, 305 athletes from 25 schools and agencies across Aroostook County gathered on the track and field area at Presque Isle Middle School for the opening ceremony of the 42nd annual Special Olympics Spring Games.

Members of the US Customs and Border Protection Color Guard, followed by the 4th Degree Knights of Columbus, led the parade of athletes halfway round the track, stopping in the middle of the soccer field. Despite temperatures in the low 40s, the athletes were in good spirits, waving to fans young and old who were bundled in heavy coats and blankets beside the track and in the stands to cheer them on.

Athletes from Central Aroostook Association’s Opportunity Training Center march during the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympic Spring Games at Presque Isle Middle School this morning. (Melissa Lizotte)

Presque Isle Middle School eighth-grader Naomi Wood performed the National Anthem, then David Blakey of Central Aroostook Association’s Opportunity Training Center carried and lit the Special Olympics Torch. He was assisted by Lt. Brian Harris of the Maine State Police.

Rev. Bud Fancy, pastor of the Presque Isle Wesleyan Church, gave the invocation while Anne Blanchard, PIMS principal, welcomed everyone to the competition.

Michelle Blackstone, board chair of the Special Olympics Aroostook County Area Management Team, presented MSAD 1 school officials with a plague in honor of their support of Special Olympics by providing the venue for the competition and organizing 130 National Honor Society student volunteers from schools throughout Aroostook County.

“On behalf of the hundreds of Special Olympians who participate in the Spring Games, thank you for supporting our athletes by allowing us the use of your facilities for our track and field events,” Blackstone said. “Your generosity each year is truly appreciated.”

MSAD 1 Superintendent Brian Carpenter, Presque Isle High School Principal Ben Greenlaw, Blanchard and Lucy Richard, MSAD 1 board chair, led the athletes in the Special Olympic oath and declared the competitions officially opened.

Athletes from Community Living Association in Houlton march during the opening ceremonies of the Spring 2018 Special Olympics Games at Presque Isle Middle School Friday morning, May 11. (Melissa Lizotte)

“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt,” the school officials recited enthusiastically.

The Special Olympics Spring Games will continue throughout the day and feature competitions such as the 50-meter run, 100-meter run, 100-meter walk, 200-meter walk, the standing long jump and softball throw.

More than 150 volunteers turned out, from the Special Olympics Aroostook County Area Management Team, Kiwanis Club, Maine State Police, employees from MMG Insurance and WAGM-TV and other members of the community, to help the athletes demonstrate their physical fitness and teamwork abilities.

“It’s always great to see the athletes’ parents watch their sons and daughters compete in the games,” said Steve Richard, Special Olympics Spring Games event chair and executive director of the Central Aroostook Association. “The athletes love sharing their skills with people and this is a great opportunity for them.”

Chrissy Skidgel, senior at Presque Isle High School and National Honor Society volunteer, said before the opening ceremonies that she and her fellow NHS members were looking forward to seeing the athletes gain confidence in the competitions.

“The games are a great chance for them to work together and we love seeing the smiles on their faces when they’re out there on the fields,” Skidgel said.

Winners of the Aroostook Spring Games will be eligible to compete in the Special Olympics Maine Summer Games at the University of Maine at Orono from June 8 through 10.

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