Othello Special Olympics team encourages athletics, volunteering

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    Courtesy photo The Othello Dream Team Community Special Olympics team shows off their gold medals from their recent tee-ball state competition.

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    Courtesy photo The Othello Dream Team Community Special Olympics team shows off their gold medals from their recent tee-ball state competition.

OTHELLO — What do track and field, basketball, bowling and tee-ball have in common? They are the sports that the Othello Dream Team Community Special Olympics team competes in.

The Othello Dream Team Community Special Olympics team is made up of approximately 20 participants ranging in age from 10 to 56 years old. Most of the team members live in Othello, with a few coming from Connell and other surrounding towns.

“To be eligible to be a participant, the athlete must be identified by an agency or professional as having an intellectual disability,” coach Pam Schmidt said.

Schmidt started the team in Othello after her son Colton graduated from high school.

“My son was an athlete that started with the Othello High School Unified team,” Schmidt said. “I became team ‘mom’ and attended most of the practices and rode the bus to games with the team. When Colton turned 21 and graduated from high school, I knew that he needed to continue with Special Olympics. So we started the community program here in Othello. Currently I am coaching bowling, basketball, track and field, and tee-ball along with several other volunteers. So now I am team mom and coach.”

Currently, participants compete in tee-ball, basketball, track and field and bowling.

“We also have several athletes that compete in individual softball skills,” Schmidt said. “This includes base running, throwing, fielding the ball, and batting off a tee. One of our athletes qualified to go to state where he received a silver medal.”

This summer, the tee-ball team also medaled at the Special Olympics State Summer Games. The team first competed at regionals in Pasco, where they won. That win qualified them for a trip to Everett and the state tournament.

“At the Special Olympics State Summer Games, they won their division and received gold medals,” Schmidt said. “Not bad for our first year playing together.”

When a participant tells Schmidt that they can’t do something, she doesn’t necessarily take that as the final word. One female athlete named Megan said that she couldn’t run.

“After attending several practices I encouraged her to plan to run the 50-meter dash in competition,” Schmidt said. “She still said, ‘No way!’ Well, not only did she run it, she got the gold and qualified to go to the state track meet. She also completed a 3K color run in Othello.”

When basketball season came around, Megan said she wasn’t going to play “because it was too hard.”

“You should have seen her become a tiger during the regional tournament in Pullman,” Schmidt said. “Out of nowhere, she grabbed that ball, and was not going to let it be taken from her. During this past summer season of tee-ball, Megan was one of the athletes that needed a lot of encouragement to run the bases fast. She scored several runs at the state tournament. I am so proud of Megan and I keep asking her, ‘What else don’t you think you can do?’ because we will be giving it a try.”

In addition to competing, the Othello Dream Team Community Special Olympics team volunteers around Othello. Some of the things they have done include serving food for the local car show and picking up garbage.

“Our athletes really enjoy getting out into the community and being useful,” Schmidt said. “They are very willing to share their love for Special Olympics and the positive things it does for their lives.”

They also volunteer for the Othello Lions Club.

“We are very blessed to have a community that supports our program,” Schmidt said. “One of our biggest supporters is the Othello Lions Club. They have been very generous in helping us with our expenses. They also allow our athletes to help them during their events, such as bingo nights and dinners.”

“They are really good,” said Lions Club member Donna Ruttan. “We like to have them around.”

Ruttan said that when they have auction dinners, the team gets the set up done in about 30 minutes.

“It is such a big help,” Ruttan said. “They work really hard at what they do. They do great things.”

Rachal Pinkerton may be reached via email at rpinkerton@suntribunenews.com.

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