Special Olympics nurtures an enthusiasm for sports

February 23, 2010

With her straight, brown hair tied in a ponytail, 11-year-old Abbey Powers threw her basketball into the air, bounced it against the backboard and grinned as it fell through the hoop.

Her teammates whooped and her father shouted words of encouragement before the ball even hit the ground.

While many children play basketball, Abbey is a special case. Doctors diagnosed her with both autism and cerebral palsy, although they never gave her family a clear diagnosis that would explain all of her challenges.

“It was unbelievable,” her father Jeff Powers said. “We were told she wouldn’t walk, we were told she wouldn’t talk, we were told she would only live to 2.”

Now a sixth-grader at Pine Lake Middle School, Abbey has a full schedule. Four years ago, her family enrolled her in Special Olympics for a children’s basketball class. At first, her parents only knew of practices in Woodinville, and would drive Abbey all the way from Issaquah so she could dribble the ball as part of a basketball team.

When they learned Issaquah offered a Special Olympics program in their own backyard, they were delighted, Jeff Powers said. But they’re not nearly as excited as Abbey.

“She got up extra early this morning,” her father said as he watched her and her friends play ball at the Issaquah Community Center. “She could hardly wait for basketball.”

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Frigid fanatics take the Polar Plunge

February 23, 2010

Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love near-hypothermia

Does jumping into brutally cold water sound like fun to you? On a hot summer day, it may sound like a good idea, but what about in the dead of winter? If this painfully cold combination sounds appealing, you may consider taking a polar bear plunge.

Yes, polar bear plunges are what you may expect: events where masses of people run and dive into frigid water when the weather is at its coldest. So, do you need to be completely out of your mind to participate? Not necessarily.

Polar bear plunges are held all across the country, and they are usually held as fundraising efforts. In Washington, there is a Polar Plunge series that benefits Special Olympics Washington.

The 2010 series stops at six cities, and it kicked off New Year’s Day in Lake Sammamish at Redmond’s Idylwood Park. After the kickoff, the Polar Plunge series also made stops at Alki Beach in Seattle and Columbia Park in Kennewick.

The series also stopped at Sarg Hubbard Park in Yakima Feb. 13, Walla Walla Point Park in Wenatchee Feb. 20 and Medical Lake Waterfront Park in Medical Lake Feb. 26. Visit Special Olympics Washington’s Web site for more information on upcoming plunges.

It seemed covering the series’ kickoff would make for a chillingly good article. However, since the event was in Redmond, the story needed an Issaquah connection, which meant finding Issaquah residents who were taking the plunge. This turned out to be quite difficult during the holiday season, and I was forced to resort to my plan B: take the plunge myself.

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Special Olympics hoopsters gain confidence, catch up with friends

February 9, 2010

While many people were preparing for the Super Bowl, hundreds of athletes from around King County gathered at the Issaquah Community Center to compete in the 2010 Special Olympics Regional Basketball Tournament. Read more

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Special Olympics regional tournament is Sunday at community center

February 6, 2010

NEW — 6 a.m. Feb. 6, 2010

Special Olympics Washington hosts the King County Regional Basketball Tournament Feb. 7 from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Issaquah Community Center.

The tournament will feature more than 800 Special Olympic athletes from the county. Teams will compete for an opportunity to advance to the Winter Games, March 5-7 in Wenatchee.

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