Special Olympics - the ultimate win-win

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:02

Vernon — It was a bitter cold day. The sun was gleaming, creating a sparkling sheen on the snow. Perfect for the Special Olympics, an annual sporting event featuring amateur athletes. Over a two-day period, hundreds of mentally disabled adults and adolescents along with even more volunteers from all over the tri-state area flocked to various areas in New Jersey for the big event. Downhill skiing took place at the popular ski area Mountain Creek, while cross-country skiing was held at Campgaw Mountain in Mahwah. In addition, Mennen Arena in Morris County hosted speed skating and figure skating. At each of these sites, athletes looked forward to a lot of competition and a ton of fun. Over the past five years I have been volunteering at these games along with my dad, who has been assisting for over 20 years. This year I was a personal escort to Karyn Tettemer, a 38-year-old Special Olympian from Pennsylvania, who participated in slalom skiing. My job was to look after her throughout the day, make sure she got to her races on time and help her with whatever she needed. This year the Winter Special Olympics kicked off on the morning of Jan. 26. Athletes of beginner, intermediate and advanced levels raced in time trials to see where they would be placed in actual competition that afternoon and the following day. On Jan. 27, the racers were seeded into competitive groups depending on their time trial runs. Those who received the top three times in each event walked away with a sense of pride and prize of accomplishment: a gold, silver or bronze medal.