By MELANIE MOORE
BLACKFOOT — Two teams represented Bingham County at the Idaho Special Olympics Summer Games in Boise last weekend.
Ten athletes from the Blackfoot Bandits team and nine members of the Snake River Special Olympics team travelled to Boise to compete in the games, which took place July 16. The athletes competed in various swimming and track and field events and brought home plenty of medals for the efforts.
“All of our athletes returned with at least two medals,” Blackfoot Bandits coach Carey Walton said. “It’s a very rewarding experience for a lot of our athletes.”
Snake River athletes also received several gold and silver medals.
To qualify for the state games athletes must first compete in regional events. They then train for several weeks for the state games.
Both Bingham County teams also participate in the winter and fall games. There are 100 people affiliated with the two Bingham County teams.
Participation in the Special Olympics is very rewarding to the athletes and helps them grow physically and socially, Snake River Coach Brenda Empey said, recalling a new participant’s reaction after his competition.
“He was jumping up and down and he was so excited,” Empey said.
Both Empey and Walton have been involved with Special Olympics for more than 20 years. Walton said it is a very worthwhile program for the athletes and the volunteers.
“It’s just a great experience,” Walton said. “The overall experience is amazing.”
Participation in the Special Olympics is free and all coaches are volunteer.
Special Olympics Idaho is a non-profit organization that provides training and athletic competition in 15 Olympic-type sports, year-round and free of charge to over 2,500 children and adults with intellectual disabilities throughout the state of Idaho. For more information visit www.idso.org .