(MT. PLEASANT, Mich.) – We are just over a week away from the largest Special Olympics Michigan event of the year! The 2015 State Summer Games presented by SpartanNash takes place on the campus of Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant from Thursday, May 28 through Saturday, May 30.
Close to 2,700 Special Olympics athletes from nearly all 83 counties in Michigan, along with 3,400 coaches, volunteers, chaperones, family members and spectators will take part in this year’s Games – all while experiencing inclusion, unity, acceptance, respect, dignity, friendship and joy! Athletes competing at the State Summer Games qualified through competitions held at the local level. These local spring and summer games began earlier this month and continue through May 22 at various locations across the state.
The Flame of Hope will be lit at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 28 on the Capitol steps in Lansing with a special Law Enforcement Torch Run® (LETR) ceremony. LETR members will then spend the next nine hours running in relay style to light the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at Kelly/Shorts Stadium on the campus of Central Michigan University.
We invite you to be a cheer volunteer for the Opening Ceremony and Parade of Athletes on Thursday, May 28 or during athlete competition on Friday, May 29 and Saturday, May 30! There is no charge for admission.
Michigan’s members of the Special Olympics US National Team will also be a part of the State Summer Games during the parade of athletes at the Opening Ceremony (May 28) and competition (May 29-30). Michigan’s 17 Special Olympics USA members include a male volleyball team from the Flint area, Powerlifter Ben Bednarz from Canton, and cycling coach Dave Pruder from Bay City. These team members will participate in the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles from July 25 through August 2 along with 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches from 170 countries from across the globe. The World Games will be the single largest event in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games.
Here are some of the highlights planned for this year:
Ø Our Presenting and Premier Statewide Gold Medal Sponsor SpartanNash is back to celebrate a 31 year partnership! SpartanNash supports athletes, provides volunteers and feeds hundreds of volunteers throughout the Games.
Ø The sixth annual “Rev It Up Ride” returns with motorcycle riders from all across Michigan converging on Mt. Pleasant. Many of them are members of the Michigan Moose Association but anyone is welcome to participate by paying the entry fee. The ride raises funds for Special Olympics Michigan. An autograph session will take place at Kelly/Shorts Stadium Friday, May 29 from 6:30 – 7 p.m. before the start of the Closing Ceremony.
Ø This year marks the 31st anniversary for Michigan Law Enforcement Torch Run® (LETR). The annual Capitol Steps Kick-off Torch Lighting Ceremony will be Thursday, May 28 at 10 a.m. on the main steps of the Capitol building in Lansing. The public is welcome to attend! LETR members will light the torch with an athlete. Then 14 LETR members will each run a five mile stretch during the next nine hours from the Capitol in Lansing to Mt. Pleasant, in relay style, leading up to Opening Ceremonies that night at 6:30 p.m.
Ø The 2014 Inspirational Athlete of the Year Mary Bartel of North Branch will have the honor of running the last leg of the torch run in Kelly/Shorts Stadium to light the Flame of Hope at the Opening Ceremony. He will be presented with a running jacket at Closing Ceremonies from the Law Enforcement Torch Run® and become an honorary member. The 2015 Inspirational Athlete of the Year will be announced during Closing Ceremonies.
Ø Our 2014 SpartanNash Healthy Athlete of the Year Robert Malnight from Kalamazoo will lead the Athlete Oath at the Opening Ceremony. Robert will also be present at the Celebrity Autograph Signing. He is featured on the bottles of Spartan brand apple juice. The 2015 SpartanNash Healthy Athlete of the Year will be announced during the Opening Ceremony.
Ø We will have an athlete Prince and Princess from each of our 36 area programs. The King and Queen of the 2015 State Summer Games will be drawn from the 12-member court and announced at the Closing Ceremony.
Ø The Healthy Athletes® Village provides free health screenings to all athletes. This year it includes Opening Eyes®, Special Smiles®, Healthy Hearing, MedFest®, Fit Feet, Health Promotions, FUNFitness, MICHIP, Strive and SpartanNash’s “To Your Good Life.” Zumba and a rowing challenge will also be offered.
Ø We are offering the Young Athletes™ Program on Saturday, May 30 from 11 a.m. – Noon at the Indoor Athletic Complex Turf Bay. The Young Athletes™ Program introduces children ages 2-7 to Special Olympics Michigan, before they become eligible to compete at age eight.
Ø On Thursday, May 28 from 1-4 p.m. Project UNIFY® will bring together bocce and bowling athletes from Project UNIFY® Schools to participate in Unified tournaments, which feature athletes with and without intellectual disabilities competing together. The locations of each tournament are bocce at the bocce courts (CMU Field Hockey Field) and bowling at the SAC. Students are empowered to be leaders in their schools and educate their peers about diversity, anti-bullying and respect. Special Olympics Project UNIFY® is a school-based project that uses sports and education programs to activate young people to develop school communities where all youth are agents of change – fostering respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics Michigan is excited to finish our 6th year with the program. This year, more than 140 schools and over 3,500 students participated in Project UNIFY® in Michigan. To learn more about Project UNIFY®, visit SOMI.org/projectunify.
Photos from the 2014 State Summer Games presented by SpartanNash can be viewed here: